Editor’s Note: As part of our mission to Grow The Game we have opened our platform to all athletes seeking an amplified voice. MLL and NLL star Randy Staats is most importantly a Haudenosaunee man and Iroquois Nationals lacrosse player. As a part of our open platform, we are giving Randy the opportunity to share his story.
I’m upset. I’m pissed off. I’m hurt.
The Iroquois Nationals, who represent the Haudenosaunee and all Native peoples, have been excluded from The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama. The life-bringers of the game have been barred from competing on the international stage.
Maybe I should be used to this? It happens all the time. We were kept out of the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships because British officials wouldn’t accept our Haudenosaunee passports. In 2018, it came down to the last minute and required international diplomacy to get us into Israel for the World Lacrosse Championships. Should I be surprised to see something similar happen again?
It’s no surprise what I’m feeling; it’s anger, disappointment and disrespect.
I’ve talked to people at the World Lacrosse federation. They say it’s not their rules. They say they don’t make the criteria for international, multisport events like The World Games. They say the Iroquois Nationals don’t meet the criteria for inclusion.
What are the criteria? I’ve been seeking the answer to this question for days now. I’ve yet to find one.
We have played as members of World Lacrosse for decades now. We have played, and played well in many international tournaments before. We placed third in Israel in 2018. This cannot be because we can’t compete.
We are a sovereign nation. We have a flag. We have our own passports. We are a distinct people. This cannot be because we aren’t organized.
So then, why? Why can we not be given further information on the criteria required to participate in The World Games? If we have not met the necessary criteria, why can’t that be explained to us so we can meet the criteria and compete?
It’s crazy to even be talking about this. We were the first ones on this continent. We were placed in residential schools. We were put on reserves. We had our culture ripped away from us through forced acclimation to become “normal” in white society, religious conversions and more. None of it was by choice. And now we’re having to fight for the right to play the game given to us by the creator by an outside organization. This isn’t by choice, either.
I don’t think this is a lacrosse issue. Many members of the lacrosse community know our story, know the role lacrosse plays in our culture and support us. I appreciate them an incredible amount. This is a deeper issue than the sport, though. This is a cultural issue.
We deserve the legitimacy as a nation that our passports, culture and history provide. We shouldn’t have to fight to be treated as equals, it simply should be. We’re human beings – people the same as everyone else – and we deserve to be treated as such.
The world is going through wild changes right now, and race is playing a role. The current climate has opened more people’s eyes to the reality of race inequality in North America and across the world. The only better time for this fight would be never.
Putting on the Iroquois Nationals jersey evokes the same emotion from me every time, and it will never change. To me, it’s the best feeling in the world. To represent my family, the Haudenosaunee and all Native Americans across the United States and Canada is much more than a game. It allows me to impact indigenous people throughout Turtle Island. I would never trade it for anything.
Do not take that away from me. Do not take that away from my teammates. Do not take that away from the Haudenosaunee. Do not take that away from all indigenous people. Do not take that away from human beings.
I implore World Lacrosse, The World Games, and the IOC to publicly explain the criteria we supposedly do not meet so we can have the chance to meet it. I ask the lacrosse community to stand behind us in our fight to win the recognition and respect we should have had centuries ago. And I plead with everyone who mistrusts, doesn’t believe or is ignorant to the plight of my people to study, ask questions and open their ears and eyes so we don’t have to continue down this same path time after time.
My message for The World Games organizers: it won’t be a World Games without us.
– Randy Staats
Mohawk Turtle Clan