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Acknowledging and addressing a horrific past is always painful, but last year the National Lacrosse League (NLL) did just that through their “Every Child Matters” initiative benefitting Indigenous communities and causes.
Lacrosse was birthed by Indigenous communities, communities that were ripped apart by theft, murder, colonization and Indigenous Residential Schools across the U.S. and Canada.
These schools were created to assimilate Indigenous populations. There they stripped children of their culture, heritage and identity. Ultimately, many were physically and mentally damaged and thousands were killed.
That history was brought to light during the summer of 2021 when a mass graveyard of hundreds of children who attended these schools was discovered in Canada.
That’s when the NLL decided to take action.
Last year, as part of the recently launched NLL Unites, the league’s first-ever Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, each of the 12 teams donned specially designed orange “Every Child Matters” warmup shirts.
The purpose was to educate lacrosse fans about the history of the sport while honoring those who endured the pain and suffering at the assimilationist boarding schools across Canada and the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The shirt’s design elements each had a special meaning.
The handprint represents the uniqueness of every individual. The orange color comes from the story of a survivor who obtained an orange shirt in hopes of wearing it while attending a residential school. She soon learned that she was to dress like everyone else and expected to wear the provided clothing. And the feathers represent indigenous culture.
This year, the NLL reaffirmed its commitment to the initiative. And, more importantly, they’re expanding their support in 2023.
Per the release, all 15 teams will participate in the program, which runs for three weeks (January 23rd – February 12th). The players will also sport a helmet decal that supports “Every Child Matters” for the remainder of the season.
“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.”
This year’s initiative features a new logo as well.
“In this logo I wanted to celebrate the culture we as Native Americans endured to keep. Since there are so many tribes that were affected by residential schools, my goal was to represent all Indigenous people who have been impacted” said designer Justin Gilbert of Kuvua Designs.
In addition to the shirt and decal, the NLL will produce multimedia messaging for broadcasts on TSN and ESPN and additional content will be created for digital, social media and in-game distribution.
Proceeds from shirt sales will again benefit the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund in Canada and The National Native American Board School Healing Coalition in the United States.
Shirts can be purchased through the league’s online stores, NLLShop.com and NLLStore.ca.
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