Even Clinton no match for U.K.’s refusal to allow entry of lacrosse players
July 19, 2010
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 19, 2010)
Six Nations members of the Iroquois Nationals field lacrosse team are back at home after a “roller-coaster ride” of highs and lows, the team coach said last night.
Speaking from the reserve, Cam Bomberry said the team had been pushed from pillar to post by the United Kingdom’s border agency as they tried to make their way to the World Lacrosse Champ- ionships in Manchester, England.
He said the agency went back on its word after originally giving assurances the team would be allowed in the country, only to repeal the promise at the last minute.
“It was as though the team’s management were the Easter bunny to these boys. We gave them hope and were optimistic on the promises of others,” said the former Nationals player. “But then at the last minute we were forced to rip that dream away from them and admit the whole thing was lost.”
During the tumultuous week, the team was initially told by the U.S. State Department they would not be able to leave the United States because they were travelling on Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, passports that weren’t considered legitimate by officials.
The team’s hopes were then raised after one of the world’s most powerful politicians, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, decided to hand them a one-time -only waiver to travel.
And even though Bomberry says the British initially said the team would be allowed in, should assurances be given that the players would be allowed back into the U.S., he said that promise was cruelly repealed in the end.
“The tension in the room never left us,” said the coach. “First it was day by day, then hour by hour, we were up and down all week thinking several times that we would be on a plane within moments — it was torture.
“For Clinton to get involved, it showed the magnitude of the situation. We were going for a medal and were sure we would have brought one home. For her to go to bat for us showed the level of support. For England to pull a 180 and go back on their word, was a real stab in the back.”
The U.K. border agency refused to comment on Bomberry’s objections, but a spokesperson did say the team would be welcomed should they gain “valid immigration documents.”
Bomberry said many positives did come out of the trip, including the close bond the players developed on the bus and in the hotel.
“This was the best team we have ever had, and we were going to the medal rounds — what colour medal we brought home was up to the players. In a certain way this was a victory of sorts to have the U.S. government change their minds, with the support we got from the public and with the bonding the team went through, we will be a force to be reckoned with when we do finally play together.”
The local players included Alexander Hill, Cody Jamieson, Craig Pont, Delby Powless, Isaiah Kicknosway, Roger Vyse, Ryan Burnham, Sid Smith and Tom Montour.
The Iroquois helped invent lacrosse, perhaps as early as 1,000 years ago.
Members of the team had been offered passports by the U.S., but team members say they will only use papers issued by the confederacy, a centuries-old league of semi-autonomous Indian nations whose residents mostly live now in New York, Ontario and Quebec.
Paul Horn, a Canadian attending the tournament, wrote in an e-mail to The Spectator: “Public sentiment here is strongly in favour of the Iroquois. When the flag was marched in last night, it received a standing ovation. Not even the home team received one. People over here sympathize with the Iroquois.”
The Haudenosaunee is working on new passports they say will conform with international security requirements. Bomberry said that before the team’s next event in the Czech Republic in 2011, he expects “a lot of money” to be spent updating the passports.