Players and coaches from three predominantly-Native American youth lacrosse teams told Deadspin last month that the head administrator of the Dakota Premiere Lacrosse League (DPLL) expelled their teams for complaining about the racist slurs and abuse they endured from opposing teams and even referees. The article prompted an investigation from U.S. Lacrosse, which promised a suite of changes, including a new league operations board with Indigenous members and support for lacrosse initiatives in Indigenous communities.
The Associated Press reports today (May 21) that DPLL administrator Corey Mitchell will turn over control of the league to the board at the end of this season.
Mitchell told The AP that he removed the 7 Flames, Susbeca and Lightning Stick Society lacrosse teams from the DPLL for violating attendance and registration policies set by U.S. Lacrosse. “I think this is nothing more than a response to being held accountable," he said.
The teams denied this charge, saying that Mitchell arbitrarily enforced rules against Native American teams that their White counterparts frequently break. Ali Vincent, who writes grants for 7 Flames, provided Deadspin with audio of a call between her and Mitchell; in the call, as transcribed by Deadspin, Mitchell admonished 7 Flames program director Cody Hall for bringing up racism:
“Whenever there’s a conflict that comes up with Cody’s teams it’s never because the ref exists inside the human condition and people make mistakes, it’s because he’s always saying there’s a racial issue involved.
Mitchell told Vincent that he had indeed refused Hall’s request that more be done to curtail incidents of racial abuse in the league. “He asked me to address racial training or something at referee clinics and coaches clinics. That’s not part of the curriculum U.S. Lacrosse delivers, and quite honestly, I don’t believe—I know there’s racism out there and there are people who are racists and I get it. But what I’m saying is that my focus has to be on training our officials to recognize and call when there’s a penalty,” he said.
Players and coaches from the three Indigenous teams told Deadspin and The AP about various unaddressed abuses, including opposing players calling them “savages” and “prarie nigger,” as well as a referee telling a team to “go back to the reservation.”
The expelled teams were not reinstated after the U.S. Lacrosse investigation. Instead, they are fielding other offers to play against teams around the country.
“At the end of the day, we only want these kids to play,” Lightning Stick Society director Jackson told The AP. “We deal with disenfranchised youth that can’t even afford to buy a mouth guard half the time. We understand how to empower these kids.”