As a petition that hopes to see the Iroquois Nationals invited to the 2022 World Games of lacrosse in Birmingham, Alabama approaches 35,000 signatures, statements expressing solidarity with the team have also been released online.
Lacrosse players, teams and organizations in Canada and the United States have weighed in publicly, with support being shown as far away as Thailand.
Qualification for World Games men’s lacrosse teams in 2022 is based on results from the Federation of International Lacrosse (now World Lacrosse) World Lacrosse Championships that took place in 2018.
The Iroquois Nationals won a bronze medal there, but rules for inclusion at the World Games are determined by the International World Games Association (IWGA), which relies on rules set by the International Olympics Committee that define what is recognized as a country.
APTN News reached out to the IWGA for comment and has yet to receive a response.
Lacrosse could become part of the Summer Olympics in the future.
“It’s really critical for us to be a part of the World Games and set that precedent in order for us to get into the Olympics,” said Rex Lyons, a board member with the Iroquois Nationals. “You know, because it’s our game, we are the originators you know, so there’s no better ambassador for the sport.
“And what we bring, peace, friendship, and healing is what is, so sorely needed and I think that’s something that people really embrace.”
The Iroquois Nationals travel with Haudenosaunee passports and the nationhood of the Haudenosaunee precedes Canada becoming a country on July 1, 1867.
It is acknowledged by the British Crown in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara in 1764.
The sport and the Haudenosaunee confederacy precede both by hundreds of years.
Teams expressing support for the Iroquois Nationals on social media include Georgia Swarm, San Diego Seals, Halifax Thunderbirds, New York Riptide and the Buffalo Bandits, among others.
Anishinabe Lacrosse, Premier Lacrosse League, the U.S. Box Lacrosse Association and US Lacrosse also released statements online.
Nick Sakiewicz, commissioner of the National Lacrosse League took to Twitter with a post that read, “It’s very simple….respect them, honor them, recognize them and let @IRQ_Nationals play!!”
It’s very simple….respect them, honor them, recognize them and let @IRQ_Nationals play!!
— Nick Sakiewicz (@NLLcommish) July 25, 2020
Canadian, American associations release statements
The petition asks men’s lacrosse teams, that have been invited to the World Games in 2022, to “sign this petition/ refuse to participate.”
A number of countries, including US Lacrosse, issued statements.
“US Lacrosse stands firmly in support of the Iroquois Nationals’ participation as a sovereign nation in international lacrosse competitions, including The World Games 2022. The Iroquois Nationals and the Haudenosaunee people they represent are the very essence of lacrosse.
“As the originators of the game who continue to share the gift of lacrosse with the world, they deserve our collective admiration, respect, and steadfast support.
“Their inherent sovereignty has never been extinguished and, like other Native nations, they possess powers of self-government that remain strong today.”
Jason Donville, director of High Performance and International Relations with the Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) told APTN that the organization supports the inclusion of the Iroquois Nationals at the World Games.
“No country has benefited more than Canada from the gift of lacrosse that has been bestowed upon the global sporting community from the Haudenosaunee people,” the statement said. “As such, the Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) and Team Canada stands unequivocally in support of the Haudenosaunee’s inclusion in the upcoming 2022 World Games in Birmingham.”
“The CLA is well aware of a petition circulating regarding a boycott of the World Games in Birmingham. This represents one of many options that the CLA may choose to pursue as we get closer to Birmingham, an event that is scheduled to be held roughly two years from now. However, the CLA’s immediate focus is to have the Haudenosaunee included, a process which we believe is far from exhausted.”
Read the full statement here: Canadian Lacrosse Association
From a commercial point of view, Donville said the crowds that the Iroquois Nationals draw internationally are off the charts.
“If there’s a neutral fan they’re all cheering for Iroquois. It’s wonderful right and then they don’t disappoint because, because the thing about lacrosse is you can score goals right, but there’s a style to the sport. It’s not just a matter that the Iroquois score goals,” he said.
“They add a star appeal and an authenticity that you just can’t describe until you show up at one those stadiums and it’s just so, it’s so fantastic.”
The battle that the Iroquois Nationals and those who support them face regarding invitation to the World Games in 2022 could be seen in the future at the Pan Am Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, where lacrosse could see inclusion in 2028.
“I think it’s even more powerful to bundle them because you don’t want to start this process again,” Donville said. “There’s no question that the team is talented enough. It has to come down to, whether it’s Olympics, World Games, Pan Am Games, what do they recognize as a national status and how tight it is, how strict it is.”