Honoring Black History Month.
Celebrating Black athletes in sports, dance and arts.
In 2016, Hampton University became the first HBCU (Historically Black College or University) to field a Division I men’s lacrosse team, and first HBCU to field a team since the Morgan State Bears over 35 years ago. After 5 years competing independently and not in a conference, it was recently announced that the team will join the Southern Conference for the 2021 season. This is a significant forward step in a sport with a reputation of exclusivity and whiteness at all levels despite originating with indigenous North American peoples.
“Everyone is talking about diversity. We have an opportunity to show what diversity really looks like. ... We have an opportunity, if we do things the right way, to lay the blueprint for other HBCUs to pick up lacrosse. That would open the door to changing the sport dramatically.” -Chazz Woodson, Hampton Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach, via PilotOnline.com
Once practically synonymous with white male privilege, success in lacrosse was equated with access afforded by wealth in predominantly affluent east coast communities. Though now the fastest growing team sport, Black athletes are still met with many obstacles on the path to growth and success, and even then, instances of anti-Black racism are rampant.
Before Chazz Woodson was named Hampton’s head coach last year, he has been an outspoken role model for Black lacrosse players, previously playing at high levels in Major League Lacrosse and at Brown University. He has brought to light locker room racism, racial slurs by teammates, parents, and coaches, racist marketing campaigns, and discrimination felt by himself and other Black players.
“There’s a difference between tolerance or acceptance and feeling included. Inclusion is the creation of an environment that all people want to be a part of, or at the least one in which they don’t feel unwelcome, excluded or uneasy. They don’t feel “only.” You can be only and not feel only. That’s tough for some people to empathize with. But until we reach the point where everyone understands it and cares, it’s going to be tough to change it.” -Chazz Woodson, via USLaxMagazine.com
In recent years, as the sport has grown, youth clubs and organizations cater to Black youth in areas often overlooked by the sport in the past, giving young Black athletes opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise had. A team like Hampton’s gives them something unique to aspire to.
The work of organizations like Harlem Lacrosse, the Brooklyn Lacrosse Club and Charm City Youth Lax have turned a new generation of players, from the Bronx to Baltimore and beyond, onto a game that's gaining popularity and transcending racial and social barriers that once blocked many kids from playing the game. "I don't think Hampton has lacrosse today if it wasn't for the work in places like Harlem or Baltimore City," Carcaterra says. "That's the foundation." -Vice.com
An HBCU lacrosse team means so much more than Hampton University athletics, or NCAA lacrosse. It’s breaking major social barriers for Black athletes young and potentially professional, and creating opportunities that weren’t there even a generation ago.
"As much as the sport of lacrosse is a fraternity, embracing this Hampton opportunity is only going to give the fraternity more diversity and exposure to some great things. As much as the sport of lacrosse can give Hampton an opportunity, I think Hampton is actually giving the sport of lacrosse a better opportunity." -Paul Carcaterra, ESPN lacrosse analyst via Vice.com