Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Leo Nolan appreciates the high-profile support.
Speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington on Dec. 6, U.S. President Joe Biden stated the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should allow the Haudenosaunee Nationals to compete as their own lacrosse team at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“He’s one of the most powerful people in the world,” said Nolan, the executive director of the Haudenosaunee Nationals lacrosse program.
The American president provided his reasons why the Haudenosaunee clubs should be able to field their own clubs at the Los Angeles Games.
“Their ancestors invented the game,” Biden said. “They perfected it for a millennium. Their circumstances are unique and they should be granted an exception to field their own team at the Olympics.”
But it would require a significant change in thinking from IOC officials. As things stand now, the IOC only allows squads from countries that have their own Olympic committee to participate in its Games.
It should be noted that the Haudenosaunee Nationals have participated in numerous world championships at various age groupings, both female and male, since 1990.
All those tournaments though are sanctioned by World Lacrosse, the global governing body for the sport, which has allowed the Haudenosaunee Nationals to compete at their events over the years.
Nolan wasn’t surprised that Biden took an interest in lacrosse.
“He went to Syracuse law school,” Nolan said. “That’s (a few) miles from Onondaga Nation where I grew up.”
Onondaga Nation is a lacrosse hotbed in the U.S.
Tom Perez, the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, also supports the idea of including the Haudenosaunee Nationals’ teams into the 2028 Olympics.
“I can’t think of a more-worthy candidate for inclusion than a confederation that literally invented the sport and has some of the most elite men and women in the sport in their nation,” said Perez, who is also a senior advisor and assistant to the president.
The same day Biden offered his support, Canada’s Sport Minister Carla Qualtrough echoed the sentiment.
“Lacrosse is Canada’s national summer sport,” she said. “It has been played by Indigenous peoples for hundreds of years. The Haudenosaunee Nationals are among the best in the world. When lacrosse returns to the Olympics in the 2028 Games, I hope to see the Haudenosaunee Nationals qualify and compete under their own flag.”
Like others from the world lacrosse community, Nolan was thrilled this past October when it was announced lacrosse was one of the five sports being added to the Los Angeles Games.
At the time, however, the IOC issued a statement saying it was hopeful both Canadian and the U.S. lacrosse associations would find a way to include Haudenosaunee players onto their rosters.
“It was concerning, obviously,” Nolan said of the IOC October statement. “But this is a learning process for everybody. I don’t think they had all the information beforehand.”
Nolan is no doubt hoping IOC officials do make an exception to include Haudenosaunee lacrosse teams in the 2028 Games.
“I can’t speak for the IOC,” Nolan said. “It could go either way.”
But Nolan is buoyed by the support, from Biden and others, that the program is receiving.
Nolan said Haudenosaunee officials are currently working alongside World Lacrosse reps to convince those within the IOC to include the Haudenosaunee in the Olympics five years from now.
“The next few months we’ll be doing just that,” Nolan said.
Nolan believes it only makes sense to include the Haudenosaunee teams, which are considered among the top ones at most world tournaments.
“The Olympics is about having the best players in the world show up,” Nolan added.