Lacrosse continues to grow in popularity in the U.S., as participation on the youth and high school level has led to increased sponsorship on the college level for both men’s and women’s programs. But where the sport has always thrived is Canada, where it is recognized by the government as the national summer sport.
The history of lacrosse traces to well before the formation of either country, dating back perhaps 1000 years by some estimates, to Native Americans in areas that are now part of Ontario and upstate and Western New York. The National Lacrosse League (NLL), the top pro indoor (or “box”) version of the sport, has 15 franchises in both countries and continues to support indigenous causes. The league recently completed its 2022-23 season, with the Buffalo Bandits (squarely in the region where the sport originated) taking the championship last weekend in a winner-take-all game three vs. the defending champion Colorado Mammoth (a region that has seen tremendous lacrosse growth as well over the past few decades).
The 2023-24 campaign will face off again in December, but the NLL remains active in the community year-round. One of its most significant initiatives is its support of “Every Child Matters,” which brings awareness to the forcible placement of Indigenous children in residential and boarding schools by the Canadian and United States governments from the 19th century to as recently as 1996 in Canada so that these mistakes are not repeated. In January, the NLL and its teams sported the ECM logo on specially designed warmup shirts, incorporated themed nights into their gameday experience, and participated in off-the-floor activities to benefit the cause and raise funds.
“Our continued work with Indigenous athletes and communities is a major priority for the National Lacrosse League, and the ‘Every Child Matters’ education process and activations are key components of that platform,” said NLL Commissioner Brett Frood. “This program presents an opportunity to facilitate meaningful conversations about the atrocities perpetrated by the residential and boarding school systems, continue the journey toward reconciliation, and honor survivors and their families.”
Now, with Canada celebrating National Indigenous History Month, the league is taking the next step, raising funds for its two non-profit partners, the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund in Canada, and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in the United States, via an auction of ECM items used during the year. Available pieces range from team-signed “Every Child Matters” t-shirts to the Vancouver Warriors’ First Nations Night theme jersey.
Fans can support the initiative by bidding on team-signed merchandise from NLL teams starting today through Friday, June 30, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET. The “Every Child Matters” t-shirts first available during the season can also be purchased at NLLShop.com and NLLStore.ca, with a portion of the proceeds going to those same charities.