Paul, Mike Rabil Premier “Fate of a Sport” at Tribeca Film Festival


The team behind the making of "Fate of a Sport."

NEW YORK — Premier Lacrosse League co-founders Paul Rabil and Mike Rabil and director Michael Doneger premiered their film “Fate of a Sport” at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Wednesday.

The film follows Paul Rabil through the intersection of his last years as a professional lacrosse player — during his on-field struggles in 2019 and 2020 — and beginning years as an entrepreneur, constructing the Premier Lacrosse League, which debuted in 2019.

“You’ll see the last five years of us building the league, my journey at the tail end of my career — which, I always grew up thinking that if I would ever have the opportunity as an athlete to have a story [told], it would be around my best moments, not my worst — and one of my worst moments was in 2020, and that’s all captured,” Paul Rabil said. “They’re definitely some raw moments in this film that I’m not proud of, but [I want to show] those moments because we all have them, and they’re the moments that spur the largest amount of growth.”

The film is now streaming on ESPN+ and will air on linear television on ESPN on September 15 and on ABC on September 18 before the PLL Championship.

When the lack of funding, resources and exposure of Major League Lacrosse took the fun out of the game, Paul Rabil set out to restore it. The tensions between Paul Rabil and MLL coaches and front office ran high, but in the film, Paul Rabil tried to focus on his long-term goals.

“We’re not trying to compete with the MLL,” he said. “We’re trying to compete with the NBA and NHL.”

The goal was to build a league that allowed athletes to be full-time lacrosse players, with a steady salary, health insurance and equity in the league. To keep it fun, Paul and Mike Rabil considered players’ alma mater and locker room chemistry when constructing team rosters.

Hence, a Maryland-dominated Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club.

“A lot of people assume it’s a movie about Paul Rabil and it’s not. He just happens to be the guy — him and Mike — who try to change the narrative of the sport, change the professional game and make it an elite-status type of sport,” Doneger said.

Paul Rabil and Doneger were roommates and teammates at Johns Hopkins. Doneger said the first time the two met was at a junior recruiting visit to Duke in 2003, and they’ve remained friends since. When Paul Rabil announced the League and moved to Los Angeles, Doneger reached out about making a documentary.

The initial goal was to document the league’s inaugural year. They ended up shooting three years of footage.

“[I enjoy] performances that tell deep human stories around historical moments that we learn from and feel for,” Paul Rabil said. “That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish a little bit in our film. It’s not just about our history of the PLL, but it’s also about the history of lacrosse. What was interesting about shooting this is fate had it that we were able to tell so many important stories through my last three years of experiences, one being through a pandemic, through a very highly socially active sports world and then my final season playing with Lyle [Thompson] and through that experience with Lyle, learning about the history of the native game.”

During COVID-19, in July 2020, the PLL ran a successful, fan-less and quarantined tournament called the “Championship Series.” The MLL did something similar around the same time, but a coronavirus outbreak caused teams to pull out of the playoffs.

This, Paul Rabil said in the film, was a contributing factor to the merging of the two leagues, under Premier Lacrosse League properties, on Dec. 16, 2020.

For Paul Rabil, the merger was all about bringing Thompson, who many in the game view as the best player in the world, over to the PLL.

From Thompson, the Rabil brothers learned a lot about the Creator’s game and how it’s meant to be played, not won.

“I’m hopeful that [the film] shines a light on that, on the building of a business and telling of a sport and that sport’s roots to the indigenous community,” Mike Rabil said.


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