During a home National Lacrosse League match last season between the Philadelphia Wings and the Georgia Swarm, an announcer repeatedly mocked the braided ponytail of Georgia Swarm star player Lyle Thompson, who is Native American. Public rallying cries of “Let’s snip the ponytail” were followed by some fans shouting that they should scalp Thompson.

That incident was enough to move the NLL to makes some changes, as the league hopes to honor its roots as an indigenous sport with last week's announcement of an expansion of its diversity and inclusion programming to strengthen its focus on cultural competency. The program is called “Roots of the Game.” 

“As a league we are continuing to push awareness of our great history that the Indigenous People have given us through our sport,” commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said in an announcement of the program posted to the NLL’s website. “It is our job as the preeminent lacrosse league to not only recognize efforts of inclusion, but champion them. We are proud to partner with US Lacrosse and Right To Play on these initiatives as we hope for a more diverse and inclusive future for the sport.” 

In the offseason, all players, coaches, front office staff, and league staff are required to complete the cultural competency training course offered on US Lacrosse’s website as part of a league-wide effort to focus on diversity and inclusion.

“We truly appreciate the support of the NLL on this important initiative,” said Ann Kitt Carpenetti, vice president of Lacrosse Operations for US Lacrosse. “We are committed to creating a welcoming environment for all participants in our sport and this course is one step towards making that a reality. Having the NLL players, coaches and staff join this effort helps demonstrate the universal support of the lacrosse community towards this cause.”

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.