Tomahawks refuse to play this weekend in an effort to take stance on racism in lacrosse

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By Darryl G. Smart

All the Six Nations Tomahawks wanted to do is get back to playing lacrosse. And after one weekend back in Senior Series Lacrosse action, the senior C team sees themselves needing to take a stand.

Though they went 2-1-1 at the Haig Bowl Arena in St. Catharines over the weekend, the Tomahawks have made a statement, saying they are refusing to play this weekend in Ingersoll in attempts to create some change within the league and Ontario Lacrosse Association.

“The Six Nations Sr. C Tomahawks will be taking a stand and refusing to play unless the OLA is going to make some changes,” a statement from the team reads. “Hopefully real action can take place. We no longer are accepting half-hearted apologies and words that carry little weight when it comes to the real issues.

“We seek the support of our peers, our local Six Nations teams from top Sr. A all the way down to SNMLA, as well as our women’s teams. We then will be reaching for support from other reserves, teams, leagues, professional, international, and the lacrosse community as a whole.”

The decision came as a result of several incidents that occured over the weekend, which became the straw that broke the camel’s back from past incidents that have soured the Tomahawks organization.

The first incident last week occurred when Tomahawks player Layne Smith was told he was ineligible to play because he suited up for Six Nations Chiefs, of Major Series Lacrosse during the MSL Classic.

“I was super frustrated. I waited this long to finally play lacrosse again and to have it taken away from me because of a made up rule is ridiculous,” Smith said. “I have asked many times to see the ruling on this and was told the rule of players being called up does not exist. I asked repeatedly how a rule that does not exist would be carried out. I have yet to see any formal ruling or meeting minutes showing any form of ruling. I also researched the constitution and found a rule that said, being called up was legal. When I sent the ruling to the OLA president and league commissioner, the reply I received was, ‘Sr.C does not follow the constitution.’ So why reference it? Seems like a lot of contradictions.”

The other incident over the weekend came during and after an in-game scrum.

After two players were ejected, allegedly the opposing player’s wife and the Tomahawks’ player’s family had words in the stands, resulting in them being threatened with bear/pepper spray. 

Witnesses said the police were called, and the league was notified. Tomahawks president and general manager Ryan Thomas Green said he hasn’t heard from the league about the incident.

“We as a team feel like the racism in the OLA needs to be addressed,” Green said. “It’s been going on since our grandpas played. We just want to make changes for the future generations.”

The team’s statement reads, “That incident stems from racism that we have for too long endured. We have put up with racial slurs, rule bending, rules ignored, fan abuse, and the list goes on. Our teams have been targeted for years and generations of blatant disrespect when we are the originators of this beautiful game we love and hold dear.”

SSL commissioner Shelly Nobile said she and the OLA are doing what they can to resolve things.

As the commissioner and creator of this league, it is both hurtful and deeply saddening to have the league publicly referred to as being racist,” Nobile said. “The statement released by the Tomahawks doesn’t cite any particular incidents or provide specific details. We have reached out to the Tomahawks and had a conversation trying to understand the exact issues and are working toward a resolution.

“When I first created this league I did so because I believed there was a group of lacrosse players who didn’t have a place to play the game they loved and we needed to provide it for them,” she said. “We were excited to have the Six Nations Tomahawks as the first team to join the SSL Sr.C. They were amazing hosts for our inaugural Legends Cup Championship and very deserving champions.”

Green did say that Nobile reached out to him Thursday after the statement spread on social media. Green and Smith said they just hope for people to answer this call for change and the banishment of racism in lacrosse.

“You have the indigenous community who brought and shared this game,” Smith said. “And to have things like this done to us is unreal.”