Iroquois Appeal FIL Decision for Blue Division Exclusion

Iroquois Lacrosse Logo
Olympic Lacrosse without the Iroquois? No thanks.

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.


  1. CW, I usually agree with your opinions and beliefs, however I completely (and respectfully of course) disagree. I think that the Iroquois should and deserve to play on a national stage and represent their nation. I also think that without their full participation it is the fans that suffer the most, since the Iroquois brand of lacrosse is fun, exciting, and so unique. Personally I always enjoy watching Iroquois lacrosse; whether it’s box, field, or the Thompson trio tearing it up at UA.

    So where is my disagreement? The Iroquois could not travel on their own passports because their passport did not meet the international travel regulations set up to help deter terrorism. It was not the governments of the US, Canada, UK, or the FIL that kept them from traveling, it was their own inability to produce passport that meet the new standards. In fact, the governments of all the nations involved agreed to “rush deliver” new passports on time so that the Iroquois could proudly represent their nation. The Iroquois then refused to travel with passports other than their own, and chose not to attend the games. By choosing not to use acceptable passports, they chose to not represent their nation. The nations at the last FIL world games all represented their nations by their play on the field and the names/colors on the front of their respective jerseys, not by the initials on the front of their unseen travel documents stored in their luggage.

    • Thanks for the comment, Scriff. Always appreciate the insight! Hopefully, I can explain my position in a little more detail below…

      For me, I see the same issue as you do, but I take the opposite tack.

      Native passports have LONG been a subject of dispute; this has been going on for decades. It is an issue of forgery and terrorism protection, yes, but it is also an issue of sovereign status. Basically, if a nation does not recognize the Iroquois as a separate nation, they may not recognize the passport either. They passports worked in 2002, and 2006, when the team had to travel to Perth and Canada. Both of those events were post 9-11. Of course the rules did eventually stiffen again, but does that mean that the Iroquois should simply give up their own passports?

      I do believe that this was a concern for the Iroquois leading up to the games, but that there lacrosse program was unable to expedite the passport changes within the nation that were required. Like I said above, NO LACROSSE BODY has that power, and it’s unreasonable to think they could have updated their own passports in any other way.

      If the Iroquois had accepted US or Canadian passports, precedent would be set. Haudenosaunee passports would be a dead issue, and because of their willingness to travel on another nation’s documents, the move to pull native passports could be made. I very much doubt the Iroquois would be willing to lose their sovereign passport rights just to play lacrosse.

      They are sovereign, and want to be treated as sovereign. It’s an international issue, but I can not see why the FIL would not support the Iroquois here, recognize their sovereign passport issues, and allow them back into the Blue Division, understanding that this was an issue out of their control.

      Even if they start at the bottom, they can climb back to the medal rounds, so it’s not about placement. For me, this is an issue of supporting our brothers and sisters, and little else. While the name on the jersey may be the most important thing to YOU, recognized and true sovereign status is the most important thing to the Iroquois, and I couldn’t agree with them more. Since we treat them as a separate nation on the field, we should support them as a separate nation when it comes to sovereign status and rights. A small first step is forgiving their absence in 2010.

      • Very insightful, that’s why I love you. I guess my point of view was more narrow and more focused on lacrosse. I can definitely see where you are coming coming from on this. I believe (especially after my great experiences in Prague) that it is our duty to support fellow members of the human nation. I think that there are 2 concessions that can and should be made here:

        1) The FIL can easily allow the Iroquois back in the top division. Let’s face it, that is what we all want and making that decision doesn’t have farther reaching political consequences.

        2) There should not be any “wiggle room” for questioning the sovereignty of the Iroquois. They are and should be a sovereign nation. They should be allowed to travel on their own passports. However with that said, their passport should comply with the new rules. (If I’m not mistaken, some of their passports were hand written last time) They now have had time to fix the passport issues. This should be done not because the lacrosse team wants it, but because it would be best for all with a Haudenosaunee passport and removes any excuse for validity of the document and their sovereignty to be questioned in the future.

        Selfishly, I want the Iroquois in the top division. How great will it be to watch them battle it out with the USA and Canada?

        • I also want to watch the Iroquois play the US, Canada, Australia, England, Japan, or Germany. Those are just going to be great games.

          And I agree 100% that if the Iroquois want to travel on their Haudenosaunee passports, that those passports need to comply. I believe this issue is being resolved, and will be fixed by 2018, when the games will most likely be played outside of North America. For 2014, it should not be an issue.

  2. There are a lot to this question. I can agree with your arguments in a lot of ways, however, one of them are incorrect. Sweden was not excused for not attending 2006. In the seeding, in how they made up the groups, for the 2010 championships Sweden dropped down to the bottom. They were placed just ahead of all the new nations, and not according to the results from the 2002 championships. So actually, it’s not an argument for your point of view.
    Another point that has to be taken in to account is what to do with the team that, if the Iroquais are bumped up, has to leave the top division. If they don’t want to drop down then they have to pay the price. They earned their spot in the top group in England. Or is the suggestion to make the top division in to 7 teams, which most likely will increase the lenght of the tournament or decrease the number of days of rest in the tournement. I cant see any of those options as possible.

    • I was going to comment on this as well Rolle. I remember you guys being bumped down to the red division in 2010 with Mexico, Italy and the Czech’s.

      On this article, as an Englishman I would prefer Iroquois to be re-instated into the Blue Division (from a selfish point of view). We (England, Australia and Japan) would know where we stand.

      I know its hard for people in the states and Canada to understand but to everyone else in World Lacrosse the bronze medal game is the ‘gold medal’. The shear size and standard of Lacrosse in the USA and Canada including the Iroquois is beyond every other nation in the World.

      You essentially have a two tier breakdown in the Blue Division you have USA and Canada on one side and then you have Australia, Japan, England and Germany on the other. We will all have competitive games against one another, however no matter how hard we try we are not yet ready to be competitive against the US/CAN.

      However I would argue that the current crop of Iroquois National players that are competing professionally or in college would mean that the Nationals would be included in that US/CAN bracket.

      I dont see the FIL changing their minds on this one though.

  3. Regarding the placement of the Iroquois in the plum or 3rd grp. As far as i remember, when it was clear that the Iroquois will miss the games, Ireland was asked whether they want to play in the blue group because they were the 7th seed and they declined, while Germany as 8th seed and logical next choice agreed and therefore the Iroquois replaced them in the plum grp. Nothing wrong with that. Afterall there is just the blue grp and the rest anyways.