An in-game announcer has been fired after an Indigenous player with the Georgia Swarm complained of racist comments made during a game against the Philadelphia Wings over the weekend.
Lyle Thompson, who is originally from the Onondaga Reservation in New York state, heard Shawny Hill, the Wings’ announcer, say “let’s snip the ponytail. Fans seated behind the player’s bench called for him to be scalped.
Thompson wears a long braid in tribute to his Six Nations heritage. He has three other brothers who also play professional lacrosse, including teammates Miles and Jerome, and Saskatchewan Rush defender Jeremy Thompson.
“2019 and the (Philadelphia Wings) arena announcer saying ‘ let’s snip the pony tail’ to the whole arena and fans saying they’re going to scalp me,” Lyle Thompson wrote on Twitter Saturday.
“I know Philly takes pride in their ruthless fans, but I didn’t know it was like that lol. Now I know. Just haven’t heard stuff like this since (high school).”
Hill posted an apology on Twitter and said he was reaching out to the Thompson brothers to provide a direct apology.
“I am deeply sorry for my insensitive statements during last night’s game,” Hill wrote.
“My words were poorly chosen and were not intended as racially motivated. I understand the profound hurt my words have caused. I offer my sincere apology. My words do not reflect my personal beliefs, but represent a lack of knowledge of heritage and history.”
The Wings also apologized.
“The Philadelphia Wings are deeply apologetic for the insensitive words that were chosen by our in-arena host during (Saturday’s) game against the Georgia Swarm,” the team wrote Sunday.
“We immediately addressed this inadvertent yet offensive occurrence and are taking the situation very seriously. The Wings do not tolerate discrimination of any sort and are taking swift disciplinary and educational measures to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Late Monday, the team announced that Hill had been removed from his role with the Wings and suspended from all in-arena announcing assignments at the Wells Fargo Centre.
The team added that it is working with the league to implement ongoing diversity training which will include a focus on Native North American roots and traditions of the sport.
A statement from the league said that member clubs have a “zero tolerance policy” for derogatory or discriminatory statements. The league called Hill’s words “inappropriate’ and said disciplinary action would be taken.
After posting what he heard to social media, Lyle Thompson received an outpouring of support from lacrosse fans, including Philadelphia fans, apologizing and showing solidarity with the forward. Other players also used the social media platform to express their disgust.
“Lyle… you are always welcome here,” wrote Rocco Granato, a lacrosse writer and longtime Wings season ticket holder.
“The true fans who understand the game appreciate you.”
Lyle Thompson was the 2017 NLL MVP, leading the league in regular season points.
He has 129 goals and 284 points in 58 games during his four seasons with the Swarm.