Ryan Laplante Wins WSOP Gold; Delivers Emotional Speech After Orlando Shooting

Ryan Laplante WSOP Bracelet WinnerThe World Series of Poker kicked off earlier this month in Las Vegas and has seen a lot of amazing performances and surprise victories, but perhaps the biggest, most noteworthy event happened in the wake of Ryan Laplante winning a WSOP bracelet event this past weekend.

After edging out his opponents, Laplante was overcome with joy. Shortly after that, however, the joy evaporated as Laplante and the rest of the country began learning more about the tragic events that unfolded at Pulse Nightclub early Sunday morning. For those who are unaware, a deranged man entered the well-known gay nightclub in Orlando and began indiscriminately shooting his AR-15 rifle, killing and injuring a cumulative 100+ individuals making this the single worst mass shooting in US history.

Laplante, who is openly gay, was given his winner’s bracelet by his fiancé and expected things to end there. But Laplante, who was overcome with emotion after hearing about the slaughter in Orlando, decided he should use this opportunity to make some remarks. Though he made quite a few different statements, the main message he delivered went like this: “I am so proud to call myself a World Series of Poker champion. I’m proud to call myself an openly gay man. I encourage all of you to be proud of who you are.”

Laplante said that he felt it was necessary to make a speech because of how tragic the events were and especially because he is a part of the community that was directly affected by it. Having been born in a rural part of Minnesota, Laplante had very few gay role models to look up to when he was growing up. In fact, there were almost none.

He wanted to use his few moments of fame to encourage people to be the people they are, and to not be afraid of that. It is a really powerful message and one that is especially relevant during this sad time. Laplante could have easily taken his bracelet and near $200,000 in winnings and disappeared, but he had the courage to stand up for himself and countless others in the wake of such a hateful crime.

He recognized that poker does not necessarily relate to these tragic events, but he did make it clear that he wanted to use his few seconds of fame to make a positive impact. Following such a sad weekend, it is encouraging to see that the LGBT community is not reeling back in fear, but standing front and center making it known that they are not going anywhere and are not going to pretend to be something they are not just because of one psychotic individual.

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