On Jan 12., the Philly Wings faced off against the Georgia Swarm in some National Lacrosse League action. For those non-lacrosse fans, the National Lacrosse League otherwise known as the NLL is the top indoor professional lacrosse league in North America.
The Wings have generated a good amount of buzz this year because this is their first year back in Philly since the team was moved to New England in 2014. But the team was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons on the night of January 12th.
Georgia Swarm star Lyle Thompson, who is Iroquois, was the subject of racial taunts by opposing fans. The Wings announcer when referring to Thompson said: “let’s snip the ponytail,” and fans responded by saying: “let’s scalp him.”
Holy shit, what an absolutely disgusting act by this announcer and Philly fans. What in the hell was this dude thinking? Attacking one of the most popular lacrosse players of all time with a disgusting racial slur. I got news for you buddy: Indigenous North Americans invented the damn sport! It’s so sad that this stuff is still going on in 2019.
The game of lacrosse is a game of medicine and is used for spirituality and healing. To attack Lyle for a traditional braid is incredibly disingenuous, to say the least. The braid represents honoring their heritage and a refusal to conform to American society despite centuries of cultural genocide.
Racism to Native Americans in the sport of lacrosse is something that has largely been overlooked but it’s more common than people think. Another prominent Iroquois lacrosse player, Albany attackman Tehoka Nanticoke echoed this sentiment: “One of the last times I played in Philly, I played a certain prep school who had racist remarks towards me. I played box my whole life where stuff like that didn’t happen a lot. But yeah I started a brawl because of what was said. The lacrosse world needs to get a grip on their history.”
In 2017, a Native American lacrosse team was literally kicked out of their league because they complained of racial abuse. Just freaking absurd. It’s unfortunately not very surprising, as even though the sport is getting more diverse, a good portion of its demographic are rich white kids that go to prep school.
The NLL league office put out a statement on this racist outburst: “The league and all of our member clubs have a zero tolerance policy for any derogatory or discriminatory statements made. The statements made by the Wings and the arena host were inappropriate and the necessary disciplinary action will be taken swiftly.”
Frankly, I think that’s a pretty weak statement. Calling for the scalping of an Indigenous man is a whole lot worse than “inappropriate.” Obviously, this announcer needs to get fired and these fans should be exposed and banned for life from the arena. But it will take a lot more from the Wings fans and organization to right this horrible wrong.
There should be internal reviews of the employees to make sure that nothing like this ever happens. At the next home game, Philly and their fans have to show that this was a fluke and doesn’t represent the city or fan base. Barstool Sports writer Jordie said it best: “It’s not worth having a team back if this is how we act.”
Hopefully, not just Philadelphia but the whole lacrosse community can learn a lesson from this and vow to never let this happen again. The Indigenous community deserves to play the sport they love and invented without the fear of being shamed for their history.
Be better Philly.