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#DrawTheLine: Fighting for Diversity & Inclusion in Lacrosse

For too long, lacrosse has sat on the sidelines of the fight for social justice, representation, and inclusion.

It’s time to #DrawTheLine.

We’re people first, lacrosse players second. As people, it’s our responsibility to treat one another with kindness and embrace unity and inclusion. As a sport, it’s our responsibility to be leaders, to fight for change, and help the sport grow by welcoming and supporting players of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, gender, and sexual orientation.

The line starts with you. It starts with us. With coaches, teammates and brands. With the people behind game footage and fan social media accounts.

“This is a sportwide issue. Literally everyone involved in this sport, it's our issue collectively,” says Kyle Harrison, midfielder for the PLL Redwoods and President of Charm City Youth Lacrosse.

Years of these issues won’t be solved in a day or even a month or year, but there are things each of us can do to own our part in this and make a change:

Recognize there’s a serious gap — and it’s not okay.

The first step is acknowledging there’s a problem. Sometimes it might be subtle, sometimes it might be more obvious, but there is a gap in our sport. Go to any lacrosse game and you’ll see it — the team on the field doesn’t reflect the diversity of the greater community. Whether on purpose or not, a lack of cultural inclusivity perpetuates the issue.

“Honest take on how we’re doing as a sport with inclusion? We’re not where we need to be,” says Michelle Tumolo, Syracuse alum and diversity advocate. “It's too often that I see racist or sexist, or just plain ignorant comments on social media. We need to keep educating, keep advocating for change and equality. Be a good person.”

It starts with you. Put in the time and effort to educate yourself.

One of the biggest barriers to progress is assuming we already know everything. Cultural awareness requires ongoing education because each individual’s experience and perspective is different.

“Education is by far the most important piece. Currently, all of the scenarios that continue to arise within our sport are all based on a lack of education or cultural competency,” says Harrison.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kyle Harrison (@kyleharrison18) on

Kyle Harrison joins panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in the sport.

It takes time, but as Harrison points out, ignorance doesn’t have to be a permanent state.

“The good news is, that's something that can be taught. US Lacrosse offers a free cultural competency course on their site that only takes 60 minutes. I've taken it, and it's a great resource to start the education within our community.”

Recognize the influence you have.

As an athlete, you have an opportunity that reaches far beyond the field. You can be leaders in your school, your family, among your friends, on social media, and in the community.

“Being a leader on the field can be very empowering, but it also comes with great responsibility. As an athlete, you have an opportunity to reach a community much larger than those in your sport,” says Tumolo. “Being a leader, lots of people look up to you, and your actions and words have the ability to inspire, support and encourage — or they can do the very opposite.”

Team STX athletes Michelle Tumolo and Liz Hogan team up to talk leadership and lacrosse.

Leadership is all about doing the right thing, Harrison says.

“Lead by example. Your teammates, family, friends, and even strangers notice when someone is a good human being. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are vocal, some aren't. Doing the right thing all the time makes you a leader.”

Think before you talk or post.

We all do it. We speak without thinking about our words. And we’ve all posted something that we’ve ultimately regretted. Words are powerful, and to make a real change, we have to be careful how we use them.

“Most issues I see, specifically on social media, are all related to education,” says Harrison. “Unacceptable language, stereotypes, and quite candidly just offensive comments are a daily occurrence on social media in this sport — and the rest of the world as well — and we have to do better.”

“We have to remember that we are all unique individuals and in order to be accepting and inclusive, we must educate ourselves on what makes us different,” adds Tumolo. “We can never assume anything about anyone and by growing our awareness, we can make our conversations more inclusive.”

Embrace unity.

As athletes, we know the value of teamwork. Victory comes when you’re in it together. And this is bigger than any game or championship, so we need everyone on board.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kyle Harrison (@kyleharrison18) on

Harrison joins others at #LaxCon2018 in a call for greater representation and inclusion.

“We all need to educate ourselves and our children,” Harrison says, emphasizing the importance of education across generations, groups, organizations, teams, and other key players in the sport. “All it takes is an actual commitment to collectively improving. If all of us commit to educating ourselves, myself included, we can begin to push this thing in the right direction.”

And just like when one player skips out on practice or a workout and it brings the team down, when one person decides this isn’t important, it has a ripple effect. We have to hold each other accountable. It can’t wait.

“Educate yourself. Take the cultural competency course. Get to know people who are different from you and your friend group. Go out of your way to put yourself in situations you can learn from. And at the end of the day, as simple as it sounds, treat people the way you want to be treated,” says Harrison.

Who’s ready to #DrawTheLine? Repost this message and video with #DrawTheLine and start a conversation with your teammates and friends right now!