Social media has been very busy this week as Haudenosaune lacrosse fans everywhere tune in to watch the Iroquois Nationals at the FIL World Championships in Denver. But excitement quickly turned to outrage during Sunday’s game against Team Canada after ESPN commentator Quint Kessenich made some highly inappropriate and uninformed comments during the Iroquois Nationals game against Canada, saying that he felt wooden lacrosse sticks should be “banned” in competitive play.
Iroquois Nationals teammates Kevin Bucktooth and Travis Hill have both been photographed this weekend in Denver proudly bearing traditional hickory lacrosse sticks throughout the competition. Wooden lacrosse sticks are hand made by trained craftsmen with careful attention paid to the details such as choosing the tree down to the final stain applied. Traditionally among the Haudenosaune, boys are given lacrosse sticks in infancy and buried with their wooden stick when they complete their time on earth. Kessenich opinionating on the matter with little reverence to the roots of lacrosse on live broadcast television in front of millions of fans during an international competition was breeching a major boundary, amounting to a disrespect of the game and the Iroquois Nationals.
Others were also appalled after Kessenich made an uninformed remark during the same game that all the players for the Iroquois Nationals had to make hard decisions when pursuing careers in lacrosse – to leave their reservations “for a better life”. The insinuation that on-reserve living conditions are bleak and not conducive to making professional athletes is just not true at all. It is a gross misconception. The comment also revealed Kessenich’s lack of knowledge as a number of Iroquois Nationals players currently live on Haudenosaune reserves.
Iroquois Nationals also took to Twitter in series of tweets responding to the comments saying, “Our Traditional Sticks are a valued and treasured piece of our Culture. Given at birth and buried with in passing. We are never taught to treat them as ‘a weapon’. To possess a wooden stick is an honour and with that is carried with respect. A complete understanding of lacrosse never uses the word ‘weapon’ to describe the game and the lacrosse stick. It is inappropriate and reflects a negative cultural and racial connotation.”
Kessenich has at this point not issued an official statement regarding any of his comments during Sunday’s game.