The ESPYs, in many ways, have become the biggest night in sports, recognizing the biggest accomplishments of the year, where every form of athlete is honored for their accomplishments. The honorees are awarded for everything from a singular athletic play to a lifetime of work dedicated to bettering humanity.

Wednesday’s ESPY awards ceremony, the first broadcast on major network television, was laden with emotional moments, many carrying important social messages.

On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize gay marriage across the country, respect for and fair treatment of LGBT athletes came front and center at this year’s ESPYs. For many, it was an important acknowledgement that the sports community at-large now stands firmly behind the LGBT community in support of equal rights and fair treatment.

The night was especially meaningful for one Colorado-based organization.

The Denver-based non-profit You Can Play Project received the first-ever Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award from ESPN. The Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award is given as part of ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards program and pays tribute to the late, and very inspirational, sportscaster.

The criteria for receiving the award was described by ESPN as, “indomitable spirit, celebrating those who use the power of sport by taking risk and using an innovative approach to aid the disadvantaged, save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity.”

This groundbreaking organization was founded by former Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, Denver sports marketing executive Brian Kitts and Denver real estate agent Glenn Witman. The three were having a discussion at the University of Denver, touching on how there is still an overwhelming feeling of taboo of coming out in athletics, and how that feeling needs to hit the road. This next frontier needs to be met with respect and acceptance within the world of sports.

Burke’s brother, Brendan was a motivating factor when beginning this organization. Brendan was the youngest son of former Toronto Maple Leaves general manager, Brain Burke, and he the manager of the University of Miami hockey team. He was a very active member in the hockey community until his tragic death due to a car accident on February 5, 2010. Right before his death, he came out as gay. It was said that he was the closest person to the NHL ever to come out publicly.

Before his death, Brendan was working diligently has a LGBT activist and spoke with The Globe and Mail.

“The important thing is that it’s started a discussion,” he told The Globe and Mail in an interview, “and people realize there could be a gay person next to them in the locker room.”

Patrick and his family wanted to continue his brother’s work with LGBT athletes and then started this great non-profit organization that recognizes that if you have the skills, determination, and if you can play, you can play, no matter your race, religion or sexual orientation.

The Denver-based organization was a hit. The Colorado High School Activities Association approached You Can Play and wanted in on their purpose. This is when You Can Play, CHSAA and Denver’s Gill Foundation hosted a You Can Play video and put You Can Play message in every single locker room for competition for every Colorado high school.

Over 300 high schools participated and pro athletes from the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, NLL’s Colorado Mammoth, MLS’s Colorado Rapids, NBA’s Denver Nuggets and MLL’s Denver Outlaws made videos of their own. Even the band Fun and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made You Can Play videos in support. As a result, professional teams, high school students, colleges across the entire country, athletes, coaches and staff began talking about diversity and commitment.

One of the first and most innovative videos starred Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. He was the first professional athlete to stand up and vocalize what You Can Play stands for.

“Teamwork means letting everyone play their role, on the ice, in the locker room, or in the stands. That includes teammates and fans who might be from a different race, religion, background or sexual orientation. We care about our teammates and we care about our fans. We’ll play with anyone who will help us win and we ask our fans to respect the game by respecting everyone on the ice and everyone in the stands. If you can skate, you can skate, if you can score, you can score, if you can play, you can play,” said Landeskog in his You Can Play video.

This started one of the most remarkable accomplishment for the organizations. Every team in the NHL has now been represented by a player who has spoken on behalf of LGBT athletes, team staff, coaches and fans. They listened to what Landeskog and You Can Play had to say, and now they are encouraging all athletes, if they have the skills to play, they can play.

One of the greatest opportunities that You Can Play has had the chance to take part in, was addressing the United Nations. The Permanent United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva wanted something different when they presented in 2014, so they contacted You Can Play. As such, You Can Play became the first LGBT sports advocacy group to ever address the United Nations. Brain Kitts was the one charged to take on this mission.

“I’ve always been proud of the small steps You Can Play has taken in support of something we believe. This started as three guys who thought we could get a couple of our sports buddies to say it’s OK to be gay. But, I’m not sure we ever thought the message would take hold. Then your group gets a call to speak on behalf of your country, at the United Nations, and it’s a surreal feeling that some of the work you’ve done is validated. Frankly, it’s the most humbling experience of my life,” Kitts said on the You Can Play website.

One of the most recent additions to the You Can Play family is the Canadian Olympic Committee.  In December 2014, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced a commitment to its LGBT athletes that included coaching and counseling for athletes coming out and outreach programs involving You Can Play and Toronto-based human rights group Egale.

“This partnership will set us up to tackle some of the issues related to LGBTQ athletes, taking the conversation to another level within the sports community,” said Chris Overholt, Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive.

The COC joins numerous recognizable sponsors in support of this great cause, including the NHL, the National Hockey League Players Association, MLS, the Major League Soccer Players Union, Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Canadian Football League, American East Conference, North Atlantic Conference, Go! Athletes, Campus Pride, Sporting News and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

You Can Play will be also honored by the National Education Association’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights. This is be the first non-profit organization to receive this award. You Can Play joins a list of recipients that includes philanthropist Tim Gill and entertainer Cyndi Lauper. Additionally, Co-founder Kitts received the 2015 Colorado Education Association’s Coloradan Award which is the highest award for a non-member.

When this organization was started in 2012, this cause was still viewed by many in the sports world as a touchy subject. Within three years there has been so much change and progress for equality. What once started as a conversation has now impacted the lives of thousands of athletes across the country, into Canada and hopefully it will grow to a worldwide cause for respect, because remember, if you can play, you can play.

Sabrina Naccarato, a Mile High Sports intern and MSU-Denver student, contributed to this report