The fourth-seeded Iroquois Nationals were supposed to play host-country England today at the lacrosse world championships. Instead they're taking tourist photos in Times Square and loitering outside JFK. What went wrong for the guys whose ancestors invented our most cherished sport?
The Nationals, comprising tribe members located across the U.S. and Canada, were informed last Friday that they would not be granted visas by the British consulate unless the United States would guarantee their re-entry into the country at the end of the tournament. The U.S. demurred, citing the lack of security features in the tribe's passports and referring to a 2008 "internal directive" that outlawed the use of a tribal document as a stand-in for a U.S. passport while abroad.
The 2008 directive tightened international travel restrictions; when the Nationals last traveled abroad to the world championships, which were held in Australia in 2002, their passports "didn't pose a problem."
This time around, the Americans displayed their trademark brand of "who's your daddy?" benevolence, passive-aggressively offering to help the Iroquois by expediting U.S. passports for the team. It was a diplomatic middle finger to tribal sovereignty at a time when the Iroquois have assigned particular import to their national identity. A monster S.L. Price piece about the team in Sports Illustrated notes that until last week, the tribe's biggest lax-related tempest was over its own tightened restrictions:
An imperative to include players representing all Six Nations increased political maneuvering during the Nationals' selection process, and last December—after months of tryouts—the Iroquois Traditional Council made a devastating decision: For the first time in Nationals history, a player's Native lineage would be a major issue, decided strictly through his mother. Once-acceptable adoptees, players with only small traces of Indian blood and offspring of mixed marriages involving non-Native mothers were rejected. The Nationals' midfield was gutted when five players were cut loose for reasons of lineage.
Unsurprisingly, the team declined the offer to travel under any documentation except their own. One player, Brett Bucktooth, told the Guardian that he would "rather miss the tournament than travel under a U.S. passport." And so the situation has turned into a referendum on the rights and protections of native people — and opened the floodgates to a swell of predictable attention-seeking moans from, for example, scorned Quebecois separatist frogs equating the Iroquois with the Corsicans and Basques. What, no love for the Chechens?
Hillary Clinton, having allegedly "taken a personal interest in the Iroquois team, which has many players from New York," issued a one-time waiver promising to let the team back into the United States upon its return. It appeared the biggest obstacle in the process had been hurdled, and several news outlets began reporting that the team would be boarding yesterday's flight.
But the Brits, still smarting from their disappointing losses at the World Cup, Wimbledon, and Yorktown, thumbed their noses at the waiver, deeming it an unofficial, and thus unacceptable, document. Looks like I was wrong about which white boys are the real dicks.