By KEVIN FRYLING
Reporter Staff Writer
Two former lacrosse stars who are now part of the UB professional
staff and faculty recently played instrumental roles in drawing up a
landmark partnership between corporate sports giant Nike Inc. and the
Iroquois Nationals lacrosse organization.
UB staffer David Bray played a key role in brokering a partnership between Nike and the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse organization.
PHOTO: NANCY J. PARISI
As part of the agreement, Nike will sponsor programs to promote
wellness-and-fitness activities in Native American communities
throughout the region, as well as provide lacrosse equipment and
sportswear for the Iroquois Nationals, a team consisting only of members
from the Six NationsSeneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and
Tuscaroraof the Iroquois Confederacy.
"It's an honor to
work with one of the largest sports suppliers to promote lacrosse," said
David Bray, assistant director in the Office of Equity, Diversity and
Affirmative Action Administration. A member of the Seneca Nation who
played lacrosse for Cornell University in the 1970s, Bray served as a
liaison for the agreement through his position on the Iroquois Nationals
Board of Directors.
He said Nike is the only Fortune 500 company
involved in a partnership with a Native-American organization.
Also instrumental in the drawing up the partnership was Oren Lyons,
SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of American Studies, Colleges of Arts and
Sciences. Lyons, a chief and faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the
Onondaga Nation, was an All-American lacrosse goalie for Syracuse during
the late 1950s.
"We are proud to have Nike support us at this
exciting time in our history," Lyons said in the official news release
announcing the agreement on May 4. "The Iroquois Nationals program has
had a significant impact on the youth of our confederacy, providing an
international showcase for our players and our culture."
could not be reached by the Reporter for further comment.
The agreement with Nike came about in part through a contact in
Indian Health Service, an office of the federal Department of Health and
Human Services, said Bray. Nike's Native American Business Program works
with Indian Health Service and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to
develop wellness-and-fitness initiatives in tribes across North
Bray could not comment on the exact nature of these
initiatives in terms of the Iroquois Nationals partnershipthe
details are still developingbut suggested it might involve
lacrosse players visiting Native American communities to talk about the
importance of wellness. The goal of the partnership is not just to
promote lacrosse, but all forms of physical exercise, including
low-impact activities such as walking, he said.
Programs such as
these are important because poor diet and exerciseas well as such
problems as high unemployment, alcoholism and drug useplague
native communities and lead to high rates of obesity and diabetes, said
Native Americans also are vulnerable to serious foot
problems from these conditions because the soles of their feet often are
broader than those of non-native peoples, he added, noting that Nike
manufactures shoes that alleviate such problems.
provide the Iroquois Nationals with Nike-brand footwear, equipment and
such sports apparel as team uniforms, warm ups and casual sportswear.
The team's new uniforms are expected to debut this week during the 2006
World Lacrosse Championships being held in London, Ontario.
partnership also involves team members in research and development
through the testing of sustainable sportswear that contains non-toxic
dyes and biodegradable organic cotton, said Bray. Known as "considered
sportswear," he said such uniforms take into account the "seventh
generation," a Native American expression referring to the belief that
actions should be considered in light of their impact on future
descendants. The term derives from one of the traditional precepts used
to guide the decisions of chiefs in the Iroquois Confederacy.
Bray said the Nike project sets a great example in terms of corporate
responsibility. "It's a good, win-win situation," he said.
partnership between the Iroquois Nationals and Nike is indicative of the
overall surge in lacrosse's popularity. "It's the fastest-growing
sport," said Bray, noting that an article on the lacrosse explosion was
featured in Sports Illustrated in 2005. That report revealed that
the number of American youth-league lacrosse players has doubled since
2001 and noted that no other sport boasts such growth rates in high
A Native American activity with deep
cultural roots, "lacrosse"French missionaries coined the name in
the 1600sdeveloped over time into a popular sport at top-tier
schools and military academies. Now it's broken into the mainstream,
The Iroquois Nationals experienced its own
breakthrough in 1990 when it was admitted into the International
Lacrosse Federation (ILF), Bray added. The Iroquois Nationals is the
only Native American team sanctioned to compete in any sport
The team is now ranked in the top five
worldwidean achievement all the greater, Bray points out, since
its player pool is the smallest of any of the teams that compete.
The Iroquois Nationals placed fourth in each of the two most recent
ILF World Championshipswhich took place in Baltimore in 1998 and
Perth, Australia, in 2002and featured premier teams from the
United States, Canada, Australia, England and Japan. The team also came
in third in the 1999 Under-19 World Games in Adelaide, Australia.
In the 2006 World Championships taking place this week, an all-star
team of 23 players and five or six alternates is representing the
Iroquois Nationals, said Bray.
"It's an honor for our people to
participate," he said of the world championships. "It's one of the few
times native people can fly their flag with those of the U.S., Canada,
England and the other nations of the world."