"Let's Snip that Ponytail!"

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - The city of Brotherly love, home place to the biggest celebration of Lacrosse in 2019: The US Lacrosse Convention dubbed #LaxCon. Any proper celebration of Lacrosse would pay homage to the history, heritage of culture to the people who shared lacrosse with the world. Lacrosse is a Native American sport. A large number of Indigenous cultures (Ojibwe, Choctaw, Cherokee, Iroquois) have played a form of Lacrosse since the dawn of their culture. To some cultures Lacrosse was the ‘Little Brother of War’, used to settle disputes and train warriors for battle. To others Lacrosse was a game used to build bonds with the community, teach life values and language. The Iroquois believe lacrosse was given as a gift by the creator, as a form of medicine - to heal communities. If played with all your heart, giving everything you have you can create medicine that can literally heal the sick, give super human strength and abilities to the players. There’s a story that all young Iroquois lacrosse player is told about the first medicine game, played before earth was created on the other side of the stars between the winged animals and ground animals.

The moral of the story to explain each and every player brings something special to the game. Each and every player has a gift to offer, some are like the eagle others like the wolf. Either way if you give it all you have you can create medicine for the community and entertain the creator.

Lacrosse is intertwined into the history, culture and heritage of the Indigenous people. A gift so special that Lacrosse should be shared with the World and that’s what happened. Since the first settler to North American Indigenous people have shared their sacred game of Lacrosse. It seems only right that we celebrate the history of the game to fuel the future. Although at the US Lacrosse Convention there wasn’t much of a celebration of the history of the game, some vendors here and there gave respects through displays. Alfie Jacques was there sharing the history of the game, which is an honor because he lives’ the true values of the game. Other than those few, it was more a celebration of what is to come, the lacrosse celebrities and companies trying to turn a profit, build brand awareness - all the things that come with conventions.

I had a blast met some really awesome people, saw some old friends and spent time with people I care about. The US Lacrosse Convention partnered with the National Lacrosse League and set up a deal that would allow LaxCon Fans to attend the Georgia Swarm vs Philadelphia Wings NLL game at the iconic Wells Fargo Arena.

7:00 PM game was almost a perfect time to enjoy LaxCon all day, grab some grub and head over to a high flying action packed NLL game. As advertised it was a high flying game, both teams trying to earn a East Division win and impress the 15,000 Lacrosse fans in attendance. During the game, the Swarm came out to an early lead with their high powered offense. In game announcer, Shawny Hill, announced to the packed Wells Fargo center: ‘Lets snip that ponytail!’, when Native American lacrosse player Lyle Thompson had been running with the ball. I heard the announcement, looked over at my friend in shock. The game continued, I wasn’t sure if I had correctly heard what was said.

I am proud of my long hair and what it represents

I am proud of my long hair and what it represents

I have braided hair and I am proud of it. Long hair represents different things to different cultures. Historically some Indigenous cultures had long hair to spiritually connect to Mother Earth, other cultures believed long hair increased your power of perceptions, or a sign of a warrior. Historically, scalps of Native men women and children we’re sold as ‘Redskins’ during colonization and westward expansion. As easy as you could purchase a beaver pelt or deer skin, you could purchase a ‘Redskin’. When the US government enacted the ‘Kill the Indian, Save the man’ initiative young native boys were taken off the reservation, their long hair cut and they were given an English name. This is just a glimpse at the atrocities faced by Indigenous people through fairly recent history.

So when Shawny Hill exclaimed ‘Lets Snip that Ponytail!’ over the loud speaker, you could imagine why I was shocked. During the largest celebration of Lacrosse, in the city of brotherly love, in front of the largest Philadelphia Wings crowd this season, Shawny Hill disrespected the history, heritage and culture of Lacrosse in just four words. Those four words rippled through the Lacrosse community, so fast they nearly created a tsunami.

Shawny HIll, The Philadelphia Wings and National Lacrosse League all issued blanket apologies.

As a man with long hair I do not believe the ignorant, brash statements Shawny Hill made represent a sentiment shared by lacrosse, Philadelphia or anyone other than Shawny Hill. With that being said we need to take accountability as a sport and educate the players, people and world on where Lacrosse truly comes from, what it represents and respect the past to fuel the future.

I have a braid and I am proud it represents my family, my warrior spirit and my connection to all living things. I truly hope this helps to educate those who are ignorant to the history of the game, where Lacrosse comes from and hopefully inspires the governing body US Lacrosse to implement some history into Lacrosse’s largest celebration.

If you enjoyed reading my perspective and want to show support and educate other please ‘Share’ this post via social media. We all have an opportunity to help educate and make a difference. You can also show support by getting a Thrilla Bobble head and putting it on your desk, I’m sure questions will arise around why does he have a braid - know you can educate them.

My strength comes from my braid, as you can see with my bobble head.

My strength comes from my braid, as you can see with my bobble head.

William O'Brien