Florida Panthers game vs. Wild features odd off-ice pairing

Controversial ‘Big Brother’ star Amanda Zuckerman will be at BB&T Center on ‘You Can Play Equality Night.’

10/19/2013 12:00 AM

03/14/2014 2:45 PM

The Panthers being hockey’s first team to host a night for the LGBT community on Saturday has been well publicized.

A secondary promotion held by the team has not been.

At best it seems like an odd pairing.

Aside from the “You Can Play Equality Night,” fans can pay $25 for a ticket to Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Wild at BB&T Center in Sunrise as well as a pregame “meet-and-greet event” with Amanda Zuckerman and McCrae Olson from the CBS/Viacom reality show Big Brother 15.

Zuckerman, who resides in South Florida, was one of the Big Brother houseguests who made headlines during last summer’s show for making off-putting racial and homophobic comments.

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell taped a public service announcement in support of the “You Can Play” initiative and its goal to let people of all sexual orientation feel welcome within the game of hockey.

Campbell adds that everyone from all walks of life should feel they can be part of his game.

“It’s nice to be able to go about and publicize that everyone is welcome here,” Campbell said. “I support that. But it’s not just about gays and lesbians; everyone is welcome.”

Matt Sacco, the Panthers’ executive vice president in charge of communications, said the team condemns the things Zuckerman said on the show — which were derogatory toward African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Asians — and that Zuckerman is a supporter of LGBT rights and wanted to be part of the team’s equality night.

Zuckerman attended Florida’s game Thursday and told the Miami Herald she was trying to be funny and now regrets the way things came out. Zuckerman has made similar comments to news outlets since leaving the show.

“Unfortunately, I have a crass sense of humor, and that doesn’t excuse some of the things I’ve said because they’ve hurt people,” Zuckerman said. “I’m ashamed they came out of my mouth, to be honest. I’m a huge advocate for the gays, parades, purple, black, green, yellow; it doesn’t matter to me. I love people for who they are.

“People in the house knew that but I was portrayed differently, which is unfortunate. All I can do now is apologize and move on from there. We’re excited to be part of equality night.”

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Friday that he commends the NHL and the Panthers for taking steps to push the “You Can Play” idea by hosting a special night Saturday.

“I’m a huge believer in diversity in this world,” Dineen said. “We are a family that has strong faith and beliefs, but we’re very understanding of every situation, and that’s our world now. … Our world has changed. We are very respectful of that and extremely proud to be part of an organization, the NHL, that is on board with diversity and ‘You Can Play.’ ”

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