Haudenosaunee World Games Eligibility Fiasco Further Exposes Why Olympic Lacrosse May Be Nothing More Than a Pipe Dream

(Photo Courtesy of World Lacrosse)

After nearly a month of the majority of the lacrosse world screaming for the Haudenosauee (Iroquois Nationals) to be included in the World Games, which is not a World Lacrosse event, in Birmingham, Ala. in 2022, World Lacrosse, The International World Games Association (IWGA), and the World Games 2022 Birmingham Organizing Committee (WGOC) made a joint announcement on Friday afternoon. That announcement stated that the Haudenosaunee would be eligible to compete in 2022 if they qualify under the selection criteria set by World Lacrosse for the event and approved by the IWGA. 

With the Haudenosaunee men’s team finishing third in the 2018 Wold Lacrosse, previously FIL, World Championships in Netanya, Israel, they qualify. The women will likely not, as they finished 12th in the 2019 Women’s World Championships. 

And while it is fantastic that the Haudenosaunee will get to compete at the World Games in 2022, this whole fiasco has peeled back the onion that is international sports, and unfortunately politics, even more and shown the lacrosse world what the future could hold for the game if we do indeed get invited to the Olympics in 2028, which would be the first time lacrosse was held in the Olympics since being a demonstration sport in 1948. 

The World Games and Olympics are vastly different. The World Games was established to give non-Olympic sports and emerging sports a platform on the international level. The Olympic Games are the largest international sporting competition and for many is seen as the pinnacle for many sports and nations around the globe. In addition, they are governed by different rules and associations. 

By allowing the Haudenosaunee to compete, the World Games is thereby recognizing them as an independent nation, which they are. Currently, the IOC doesn’t recognize them as a nation. In a similar matter, the IOC recognizes England, Scotland, and Wales as one Great Britain. But they each compete individually in World lacrosse events. 

Bermuda, Hong Kong, and Puerto Rico are all recognized as independent nations by the IOC and compete on their own in the Olympics. The reason for this is because, before 1995, the IOC allowed countries’ overseas territories and other dependencies to qualify for the Olympics on their own, since many are self-governing and technically not “part of” the countries they belong to.

However, since the rule change in 1995, that is no longer allowed. But the IOC does have a ruling which allows new countries to qualify as an Olympic nation if you are an independent state that is recognized by the international community. That is how Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) got approved as an Olympic nation and looks to be the only route that the Haudenosaunee have to be able to be at the Olympics if lacrosse is added. 

The last country added through this route was Kosovo in 2014 at the 127th IOC session. The IOC unanimously granted Kosovo Olympic status. Kosovo has had a National Olympic Committee since 1992 and has over 30 affiliated National Federations, and was admitted on the basis of the rule stated above. 108 out of 193 UN Member States recognized them as a nation at the time.

In a perfect world, the Haudenosaunee should be able to apply for Olympic status and have that status be granted. They have treaties with multiple European counties going back hundreds of years, including the British and French, in addition to treaties with Canada and the United States. And they have their own governing body and passports, which everyone in the lacrosse world should know after the past debacles around those. 

Furthermore, Haudenosaunee leaders have been and continue to be invited to international conferences around the globe and the United States Constitution recognizes all native nations as independent countries. 

But as we know all too well, native and indigenous peoples are not treated very fairly in our world of, disgustingly, Eurocentric international politics. And a fight for Haudenosauee inclusion will not only be difficult and take a lot of leg work from a lot of people, but it will bring up the overall issues that like America and Canada have seemingly ignored for centuries, which is native sovereignty and the thousands of broken treaties. Sadly, that might turn people, lacrosse or not, off. 

So while World Lacrosse gaining provisional recognition by the IOC is great for the game and many growing nations where they are now able to now access resources, like money from their nation’s minister of sport, to help grow the game and give more people the opportunity to play this great game, the history and people who brought us the game also face a very steep uphill battle because of it. 

From the first Europeans who played lacrosse and developed it into the modern version of the game we know today, natives were excluded and systems were put in place for that to stay the status quo in the name of white supremacy. As the game moves forward, we must ensure that actions from the past do not come back in any form. This game the Haudenosauee’s game and international competition can’t happen without them. 

Every country that plays lacrosse, especially Canada and the US, needs to step up and be on the front lines of this fight. It appears that one hill had been climbed, but there is another lying in the distance and we must face it together as a sport.

And if it comes to the point where lacrosse is added to the 2028 Olympics and the Haudenosaunee won’t be able to compete, well then that is a sign that World Lacrosse needs to quit trying to get all buddy-buddy with these huge, sometimes corrupt, organizations for monetary purposes and do what is right. 

The lacrosse world knew that playing in Birmingham at the World Games without the Haudenosaunee was immoral and we took a stand. The same must go for potential future Olympic inclusion and any other international lacrosse competition. If the creators of the game aren’t there, then the game, as a whole, shouldn’t be there either. 

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