With Thompson’s Chesapeake Bayhawks seeking to repeat as champions, all six MLL teams will play each other once over one week at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, culminating with the final four July 25-26 in a celebration of the league’s 20th anniversary.
“A lot of the discrimination I faced, because I went to a school that was only 10 percent Native Americans, that 90 percent of the other kids, mostly white, never had even been to the reservation,” said Thompson, whose school system was less than six miles from his home.
“And the fact that they thought people lived in teepees, which was very ignorant of them, but that wasn’t even the part I struggled with. They never really took the time to understand the history of our people even though they lived 10 minutes away from the Onondaga Nation.
“So I got into a lot of fights.”
By the time he reached high school, Thompson had begun to cast aside that hostility and channel his passion toward a more productive pursuit, mastering the sport of America’s indigenous people, which he learned practically from infancy when his father initially put a stick in his hand.
He would practice in his yard, sometimes for six to sevens hours with a wooden stick, perfecting skills that included a one-handed shot and no-look behind-the-back passing.
Thompson went on to become the most coveted high school recruit in the country, choosing to attend Albany, where he became the first male athlete to win the Tewaaraton Trophy, college lacrosse’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy, twice in a row (2014 and ’15).
He graduated as the Division I leader in career points (400) and assists (225) after setting the single-season record for points (128) as a junior in 2014, when Albany narrowly missed a trip to the NCAA tournament semifinals with a 14-13 loss to Notre Dame in overtime.
“I really started to understand how to be positive and how to look at things from a different point of view and how fighting wasn’t the answer,” Thompson said. “Because I learned that from lacrosse. I learned how to be an optimist and how to play with a clear mind, which is one of the main teachings of the game.”
With five children, Thompson, 27, is invested more than ever in that type of instruction, promoting inclusion and acceptance amid worldwide protests calling for social justice and reform stemming from the police killings of unarmed black men and women in the United States.
Thompson recounted a recent conversation with his 6-year-old daughter, who several weeks ago inquired about the definition of racism.
The two had a lengthy discussion, with Thompson encouraging his daughter to continue to ask questions during this time of national examination regarding systemic bigotry that has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement and even pressured Washington’s NFL franchise to change the name of is mascot.
It’s a conversation Thompson admitted he would not have had with his mother and father when he was his daughter’s age.
“It’s a whole different generation,” he said. “My parents would have hidden some of those questions from me. They wouldn’t have had the language to translate it to me.
“Me and my wife are very open to having discussions with [our children], making their questions an educational lesson. You have to go in-depth. You have to give them a history lesson to really help them understand how people in this country have been treated, from African Americans to Native Americans, everyone.”
Thompson’s wife and children will not be making the trip with him from the family’s home on the Six Nations reserve just south of Toronto when players are scheduled to arrive in Annapolis this week for a two-day training camp beginning Thursday.
The surge in reported infections from the novel coronavirus pandemic instead has made that prospect too risky, particularly given the elderly population that typically resides in indigenous communities.
Aside from following recommendations from health experts, Thompson also must quarantine for two weeks upon going home, as mandated for all travelers coming into Canada.
“My main thing is social distancing, make sure I’m wearing a mask and I’m preventing it from spreading, and I’m not bringing it back to my family,” Thompson said. “Once I get to Annapolis, nothing changes for me. I get to play lacrosse. I know I’m going to be battling against someone who I hope is taking those same precautions.”
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