Wings announcer apologizes for Native American remark; team, league vow discipline

The Wells Fargo Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Wells Fargo Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

An announcer has apologized for a remark about a Native American player during a lacrosse game that he and the team called “insensitive,” with both team and league vowing disciplinary action.

Georgia Swarm forward Lyle Thompson said on social media that Philadelphia Wings announcer Shawny Hill said “Let’s snip the pony tail” during Saturday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Thompson, who is from the Onondaga Reservation in central New York, said fans began to yell threats to “scalp” him. “I know Philly takes pride in their ruthless fans but I didn’t know it was like that lol…. now I know,” he said, adding that he hadn’t heard “stuff like this” since high school.

Swarm teammate Brendan Bomberry, who is from the Six Nations reservation in Canada, said on social media that the game was overshadowed by the words, saying “‘Let’s snip the braid’ was disgusting and a reality for my ancestors when they were forced into Christian residential schools.”

Hill apologized on social media for “insensitive” words he called “poorly chosen” and “not intended as racially motivated.”

“My words do not reflect my personal beliefs, but represent a lack of knowledge on heritage and history,” he said, adding that he was reaching out to speak to Thompson and his brother, Miles, also on the team, “in hopes of providing a direct apology.”

The National Lacrosse League said in a statement that it and member clubs have a “zero tolerance policy for any derogatory or discriminatory statements.” The league said “necessary disciplinary action will be taken swiftly.”

The Philadelphia Wings said in a statement it was “deeply apologetic” for what it called “this inadvertent yet offensive occurrence” and vowed “swift disciplinary and educational measures” to prevent similar episodes.

The National Lacrosse League named Thompson the most valuable player in 2017 and in August honored the former rookie of the year and first selection of the 2015 draft with its sportsmanship award honoring “those with the greatest combination of character and performance” in the league. In 2015, while announcing the signing of Thompson to a two-year deal, released a Lyle Thompson Bobblehead that it said “also features a Bobble-Braid to showcase Thompson’s signature ponytail.”

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