Orlando Massacre: Ryan Laplante’s Brief, Moving Bracelet-Acceptance Speech

Seldom do tragedies or news on the global stage direct impact the poker world, but the hate-filled and ideologically-driven massacre in Florida by an ISIS supporter early Sunday morning has proven to be the exception.  Early Sunday morning, as all newswatchers certainly know, gunman Omar Mateen entered a nightclub in Orlando, Florida that catered to a predominantly gay clientele, and immediately began to massacre those inside.  Mateen killed 49 club patrons and wounded another 53 before being killed himself by responding officers, in what is now the single worst mass shooting in US history.

Political debates aside, Mateen’s attack was driven by ideologically-driven hatred and intolerance of homosexuality, and that’s where the Orlando horror began to intersect with poker.  Hours before, and over 2,000 miles to the west, in Las Vegas, poker pro Ryan Laplante had just captured his first WSOP title in the 2016 WSOP’s Event 12 $565 Pot-Limit Omaha.

Ryan Laplante poses with his winning hand on Saturday after winning his first WSOP title. (Photo source: WSOP)

Ryan Laplante poses with his winning hand on Saturday after winning his first WSOP title. (Photo source: WSOP)

The kicker, of course, is that Laplante himself is one of a very small number of openly gay poker professionals, in large part because poker does have one thing in common with professional sports, in that it’s often an insular bastion of prejudiced, sexist, racist and otherwise terrible values.  Amid all that, Ryan Laplante’s moment of celebration was cast within a larger, darker frame.

Laplante responded in his bracelet acceptance speech on Sunday with honor and dignity, offering words of hope and love and support.  It was a brief speech — he hadn’t planned on giving a speech at all — but in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, opted to invite his fiance, Chris Katona, onto the stage with him for his bracelet ceremony.

Laplante’s speech turned out to be a bit of a newsmaker itself, owing to the moment and the circumstances.  It can be viewed on YouTube here, and he also graciously provided FlushDraw with the text of his acceptance:

For those of you who don’t know; the month of June is Gay Pride month in the USA. Last night in a gay dance club in Orlando the largest mass shooting in American history occurred. More than 50 people have been killed, and more than that have been injured.

So, I have four things to say.

First of all, I owe deep gratitude to those of you who have supported me over the years. On the top of that list is my fiance, Chris Katona. Without him I wouldn’t be here, I love him so so so much.

Secondly, I am so happy and proud to have my first WSOP Gold Bracelet. It truly is everything I imagined.

Thirdly, I am proud to be an out gay man, and encourage all of you to be proud of who you are and to become comfortable enough to be open with it.

Finally, PLEASE treat each other with love and respect. There is too much hate and ignorance in the world.

Thank you all, and best of luck at the tables.

The poker world has much to learn from Ryan Laplante’s words, if only it takes the time to listen to what’s being said.  To Ryan Laplante, congratulations (though the moment may be bittersweet at present), and above all, thank you, too.

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