Editor’s Note: the below piece is filled with opinion, as well as fact. It’s a touchy issue, but one that the author feels strongly about. The below opinions are those of Connor Wilson, and not necessarily all of LAS.
The Iroquois Lacrosse program has appealed the FIL’s decision to drop the Iroquois Nationals from the top (Blue) division at the 2014 World Games in Denver for a second time. The original appeal was voted down by the Board of Directors, and they cited “following by-laws” as their rationale.
However, the Iroquois have now made a second appeal, which will go before the entire representative body of the FIL for a vote, and they are asking that the full membership group reinstate them into the top division.
I have explained the situation before and how this all came about, but for those who are unsure as to what is going on, here is a quick rundown of why this is all happening:
- In 2010, the Iroquois were denied travel to England for the FIL World Games if they wanted to travel on their own passports. The UK and US made some efforts to accommodate the Iroquois, but it was far too little, far too late, and the Nationals never made it over to England to play their games.
- It was my belief, and still is, that the decision to remain home, rather than travel on the passports of another nation, was a political one. The Iroquois are Iroquois, and that is how they identify. It is the nation they play for, and they have used their own passports for travel to other world games. In fact, the FIL even requires players to show proof that they come from the countries they say they do. So using an Haudenosaunee passport should be an expectation, and not a hope, shouldn’t it?
Think of it this way, if Canadian passports weren’t accepted in some other country, would it be ok for the US to offer Canadian hockey players US Passports so they could travel to play there? Would the Canadians accept them? I doubt it. It’s a national pride thing. And it applies here because the Iroquois are a sovereign nation. Don’t believe me? Check out all the Treaties the US and Canada have both signed saying exactly that.
And for those who blame the managers of the team… Come on, now. Let’s be real. Since when did a lacrosse program’s manager have the power and sway to change passport law? Or to get a national governing body to update their passports? I can answer that for you: NEVER. I know lacrosse is a big deal for the Iroquois, but would you expect any other national lacrosse body to be able to change passport law? No, you wouldn’t. So why do you expect it here? I hear this argument constantly, and it is extremely ignorant.
- The Iroquois were then placed in the third (Plum) division, along with Spain, Hong Kong, and Norway. They were given forfeits for each of their games against the three other countries after it became apparent they would not be showing up. I am not sure why they were bumped from one to three, as opposed to from one to two.
- Then the playoff brackets emerged. The Iroquois, as far as I can tell, were not included in the brackets and given losses. Instead, they were relegated to last, with Denmark earning a bye in the first round of the lower bracket playoffs, instead of a 1-0 forfeit, which is what had happened for the earlier stages of the tournament. Why did the FIL include the Iroquois in the Plum division, but then not include them in the playoffs? The Iroquois did not withdraw from the tournament, so conceivably, every game should be a forfeit, right?
Why is the above important at all? Well, right now the FIL is arguing that they must follow their by-laws, and that their hands are tied… but it doesn’t seem like that is always the case, at least from the above scenario. When can rules be bent? When can they be broken? I hate the defense of “we are just following rules”. We can do better than that.
- And don’t forget the fine that the Iroquois paid for the rooms that they didn’t use. The FIL didn’t lose money there whatsoever. All was recouped. This is a non-issue.
- Of course then we get to the issue of Sweden missing the 2006 World Games. In 2002, Sweden finished 9th. In 2010, they finished 10th. In 2006, they didn’t compete. I’m not sure how not competing, and not withdrawing are that different, but I would LOVE to hear from the FIL as to why the two situations are different. Maybe it’s because in 2002, lacrosse was run by the ILF? Maybe there was a transition grace period? I don’t know. But I do know that if Sweden can be forgiven for MISSING a world championships altogether, we can collectively “forgive” the Iroquous for being BARRED from a world championship, right? I mean, that’s just common sense, no matter what the rules say.
- Currently, the FIL is deciding on how to best disseminate the materials required for a vote by the entire body. The materials could go out as early as the end of this week.
- It is now up to the General Assembly of member nations to decide the Iroquois’ fate. Perhaps the leadership of the FIL did not feel that it was their right to make this decision for all the member nations. Maybe that is why they are claiming to just “follow the by-laws”. But all that matters right now is how the member nations vote on the Iroquois’ appeal.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. International Sport is one of the best ways for smaller nations to make their name on the world scene. It’s good for their culture, and for their sovereign rights, and staying power. It gives their people pride, and allows them to share their gifts with the rest of the world. It is something to be embraced, and cherished.
For lacrosse, there is no brighter small nation than the Iroquois. The Six Nations is an older confederacy than the US, or Canada, and the US Constitution even borrows from the Iroquois Confederacy’s Great Law of Peace. We owe the game to them, and so much more.
I was very excited for Denver in 2014. I was ready to pull up my stakes, and head out there for WEEKS to take in all the lacrosse, but honestly, if the FIL can’t get this right, I’m pretty sure I won’t be going at all. I just can’t support a group or tournament that doesn’t support its own people.
To exclude the Iroquois from the top division may “follow the rules” that have been laid out on paper, but it takes all thinking and soul out of the decision, and smacks of excuse making. Rules are rules, made by man. Lacrosse is a game, given to us by the Creator. Let’s not put our own laws before his, because there is no honor in that.