In a remarkable show of sportsmanship, Ireland’s lacrosse team is withdrawing from an international tournament to allow a Native American team to play instead.
The team withdrew from The World Games 2022 and the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team will take its place, World Lacrosse announced on Sept. 3. “It’s simply the right thing to do,” Michael Kennedy, chief executive officer of Ireland Lacrosse, said in a statement.
“We are a proud member of World Lacrosse and we recognize the importance of The World Games to the continued growth of our sport. As much as our players would have been honored to compete, we know the right thing is for the Iroquois Nationals to represent our sport on this international stage,” Kennedy added.
Eight teams were selected to participate based on where the team finished in the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship. The Iroquois finished third and Ireland finished 12th, but the Nationals were initially deemed ineligible to compete by the International World Games Association (IWGA).
The team was ruled ineligible because it does not represent a sovereign nation and also does not have an Olympic Committee. However, in August, the IWGA said it was willing to reverse course if a place could be found for the Iroquois team. That’s when Ireland Lacrosse stepped up.
“You have gone above and beyond not only for us, but for what you believe is right,” the Iroquois Nationals wrote in a tweet to Ireland Lacrosse. “Your actions have spoken louder than words showing everyone the true power of sport, and the spirit of lacrosse. We will never forget that.”
Lacrosse was created by Native Americans in North America as early as the 12th century, according to the Iroquois Nationals.
The Nationals represent the Iroquois Confederacy—also known as the Haudenosaunee —a confederacy of six Native American tribes that dates back hundreds of years. The confederacy comprises the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora tribes.
The team is the only Native American team that has been authorized to play a sport internationally and has been competing in international lacrosse since 1990, according to the team’s website.
The World Games is an international tournament involving more than 30 “unique, multi-disciplinary sports” held every four years, and the year after the Summer Olympic Games.
The sporting event generates global exposure for the participating sports and can showcase some sports for possible inclusion in the Olympics. World Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body, is hoping the sport will return to the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee sanctioned the sport by provisionally recognizing it in 2018.
The World Games was initially scheduled to take place in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2021 but was pushed back to July 2022 due to the pandemic.
The next step in the process is for World Lacrosse to submit its selection criteria and list of eligible teams for approval by the IWGA. World Lacrosse said the Iroquois Nationals will be included on the list.
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.