From the CEO: The Time for Moral Courage

PHOTO BY SAM BRETTSCHNEIDER


This article appears in the July/August edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, a digital-only publication available exclusively to US Lacrosse members. Join US Lacrosse or renew your membership today for access to this 96-page edition, which includes immersive and interactive features as well as video tips from professional players. Thank you for your support!

On June 1, US Lacrosse issued a statement expressing solidarity with the members of our national community who routinely experience systemic racism. The statement also referenced examples of racism that are part of the sport’s history, from the exclusion of Native American players in the late 19th century to the recognition that our sport remains largely exclusive to a community of privilege today.

In her 2018 book, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism,” author Robin Diangelo writes, “Racial bias is largely unconscious, and herein lies the deepest challenge — the defensiveness that ensues upon any suggestion of racial bias.”

I read Diangelo’s book last year and was drawn back to it for renewed insight following the killing of George Floyd, the resulting public outrage that followed and the personal reflection it triggered.

Like many, I overcame challenges as a child, witnessing an ugly divorce and alcoholism and the formative impact that period has had on my life. A strong work ethic was engrained in me early — my dad worked in a veneer mill his entire professional life — as was the belief that effort and perseverance were the keys to opportunity. Only recently have I stopped to contemplate and accept the significant advantages I had as a white male, and I deeply regret that it took such tragedy to do so.

The US Lacrosse vision statement was adopted a number of years ago as an aspirational guide star: “We envision a future that offers anyone the lifelong opportunity to enjoy the sport of lacrosse.” The concepts of inclusiveness and belonging are fundamental to this vision, and we’ve introduced and funded a number of programmatic strategies and resources focused on expanding participation regardless of zip code, socioeconomic status and race. 

But as one US Lacrosse board member shared with me recently, programs may introduce more people of color to lacrosse, but they won’t solve the underlying issues of implicit bias and racism in our sport. That responsibility falls to everyone with a voice and influence, be they a volunteer youth coach or the CEO of US Lacrosse.

I’ve seen too many examples of racism within our sport, however unintentional, and I’ve heard of many more, in particular the experiences recounted by players, coaches and fellow staff members and shared recently across our media platforms. There have been times when I’ve exercised the moral courage to lean into those situations, and there have been times when I have noted but ignored them. Moving forward, I plan to more consistently act on what’s in my heart rather than remain content with my private beliefs.

Diangelo goes on to say that, “While it isn’t comfortable for most whites to talk about racism, we must do so if we want to challenge — rather than protect — racism.”  And that’s what US Lacrosse is committed to doing. We will lead and encourage ongoing dialogue to build greater awareness and understanding of racism in an effort to eliminate it from our sport. There is nothing more important to the future of lacrosse than accepting this challenge, and we must all play a part.







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