I don’t write about lacrosse here very often anymore, since I have a separate lacrosse blog. But this is an important issue and, dear readers, your help is needed. I’ve posted this article there as well.
In 2010, the World Lacrosse Championships (field lacrosse) were held in England. A controversy erupted when the UK refused to allow the Iroquois Nationals team into the country. The Iroquois team is entirely separate from the Canadian and US teams and is one of the top teams in the world. The team uses passports issued by the sovereign Haudenosaunee nation*. Citizens of the Haudenosaunee consider themselves neither American nor Canadian, and have their own passports which, I believe, are accepted in Canada and the US and recognized by the UN.
* – Haudenosaunee is the native word for the Iroquois people, which consists of six Native American tribes (known as the “six nations”) banded together in New York and southern Ontario.
Originally, the UK refused to grant visas to the players because there was no guarantee that the US would allow the players back into the country. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got personally involved and offered to grant US passports to everyone on the team but they were determined to travel using their own passports. Clinton then granted the team a waiver that effectively constituted the guarantee the UK was looking for, but they refused to change their minds. As a result, the team missed the entire tournament.
The tournament is held every four years, and the next one will be held in Denver in July of 2014. While travelling to the tournament will not be a problem this time around, the FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) has decided that since the Iroquois did not compete in the last tournament, they will be seeded 30th. This puts them well out of the Blue division, which traditionally represents the top six teams from the previous tournament. Many lacrosse people, Iroquois and otherwise, are protesting this decision. There is only one reason why the Iroquois team was not in the top six, and that reason had nothing to do with lacrosse – it was entirely political. Punishing the team for decisions that were not only unfair but beyond their control only serves to legitimize the UK’s decision.
It’s not just the Iroquois team that would be affected by this decision. Lacrosse is hundreds of years old in North America, but it’s quite new in a number of countries that are participating for the first time. Consider the countries that are just good enough to make it to this competition (think the German or Latvian Olympic hockey teams in 2010) and then find out that they are in the same group as the Iroquois team. If your position in the next tournament depends on how you do in this one, do you want to be disadvantaged by having one of the strongest teams in the entire tournament in your division when they really should be a few levels up?
The game of lacrosse was invented by Native American people many hundreds of years ago in eastern North America. The Iroquois people are directly descended from those people – in a nutshell, this is their game. Should the Iroquois team automatically be put into the top division just because of that? Honestly, no. But it does earn them some respect from the lacrosse community. That in addition to their play in other competitions should earn them some flexibility on the part of the FIL.
The Iroquois have earned their place among the best lacrosse teams in the world. They should not be punished because of a purely political incident.
An online petition has been created to attempt to convince the FIL to reverse this decision and allow the Iroquois team to play in the top division, where they belong. I am asking my readers to please sign this petition and help restore the Nationals’ rightful standing as one of the top lacrosse teams in the world.
Update: The FIL has voted and decided that the Iroquois will be in the Blue division in 2014. I don’t know whether or not the petition had anything to do with the decision, but it’s not unlikely that the outcry from the lacrosse community was a factor. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition!