Lee’s Note: Gabe Clark is a very impressive young man. Never mind the fact that he is a top-notch player who is looking at a possible D1 lacrosse future or that he is looking at several terrific academic institutions that are D3. Or that he is a leader among his peers. None of that prepares you for the unexpected life event that propels you to prominence; life does not always run on your chosen timetable. Sometimes life choses you, not the other way around. I’m confident Gabe understands that, as you will see below.
For the few reading this and wondering about what this is about, there was a youth club lacrosse event in Orlando last weekend and during the semifinals of one of the two high school brackets an incident occurred where racial slurs were used by a few members of one club towards 3 Black players of another team. As I mentioned in another article, it is important to focus on the incident and the perpetrators, not the location or the event. Anyone who thinks racial slurs are only in one sport or in one part of the country are ignorant.
As an example of this, I suggest you pay attention to European soccer matches, where racial slurs have finally been met head-on with game forfeitures. Or pay attention to a small nugget of information that was kind of lost during the past months when it was revealed by former MLB star Torii Hunter, who admitted he had a no-trade clause in his contract to ONE TEAM, the Boston Red Sox, because of slurs hurled his way when playing at Fenway Park. NHL players that are black also report consistently about slurs hurled their ways.
It is a problem of utilizing hateful language for no reason that is meant to hide the inadequacies of those slinging it. And let’s not kid ourselves about it being one-way, because it isn’t. We saw some NFL players recently also falling into the abyss when they failed to understand that anti-semitism is akin to racism. It isn’t the sport, it isn’t the event and it isn’t the location, it’s individual people who need to throw away stereotypes and look at the person in front of them as a human being and as someone to treat the way we want to treat others. Nothing else is good enough.
Which makes me all the more glad to have talked to Gabe and get to know him. Because I have a hunch that one day in the future, when we have reached a better level of care for each other, that this young man will be in the middle of the heavy lifting.
I think you will all agree with me after you hear his story. One last note . . . the family picture is not complete, he has older sisters too! And Gabe is on the left, with his parents and brother.
When did I first start playing lacrosse? – I first started playing lacrosse in the 2nd grade after I watched Chazz Woodson’s highlights on YouTube. And I was immediately hooked. One of the craziest things is that he is now my coach on Nation United. It is only through God’s grace that things like this work out the way they do. Over the years, as I‘ve advanced through school and club play, I’ve been fortunate to achieve a level of ability that has caught the eyes of colleges.
Gabe is being modest. He’s a shut-down defender who is a true impact player.
For our program, the Bishop Moore game this season was a true test for us. After taking a pre-season win over Oviedo High School, me and my teammates came into the Bishop Moore game confident. A lot of the first half was played on defense due our face off guy, Lawton Dowdell, being out with a concussion. Defensively my teammates and I had to dig deep, we had several stops by our goalie Paul Pilgram, as well as several stops from our defensive unit. The second half was when things turned around for us. Although Bishop Moore scored 3 goals in the 3rd, we made up for it by scoring 3 as well in the 4th. Unfortunately, after causing them to a turn the ball over, a flag was thrown on the play. This allowed them to get the upper hand and make the score 7-6. This game was a pure battle, down to the wire. It was definitely one of the favorite games I’ve played, competing against high level opponents. I had 2-3 caused turnovers, and 4 Ground balls that game.
To put this into perspective, one of the power ranking programs put Bishop Moore at the top of the state in their rankings.
Looking back so far on my high school career, my favorite moments would probably be the bus rides home, or the team dinners I’ve had with everyone I’ve played with. We always treated each other like brothers, and that’s one of the reasons I love the game of lacrosse, and respect It so much. Winning championships back to back this summer, as well as going through the hard practices with my brothers during the lacrosse season have been all great moments.
In the events during this past weekend, I am more disappointed than anything else. Anger was not my first thought after several racial slurs such as the N-word, “Go back to Wakanda”, and “Go back to Africa” were said to me and my teammates. It made me realize that there is a lot of work we still have to do in unifying the world of lacrosse, as well as the world in general.
At the Orlando Face-Off, I faced a different kind of challenge. Usually when you step on a lacrosse field, you are going in a physical battle of skill, however, this situation was different, it was a mental battle, a battle of mental strength. Although I did not want this situation to happen to me and my comrades, I was fortunate enough to have been raised in an environment that allowed me to view situations from different perspectives, and it has let me handle things a lot differently than other people.
What do you do with hate? Why did I do what I did?
After the situation on Sunday I had a call with one of the Nation United Team mentors, Troy Kemp. We discussed in depth the ideologies behind my reactions. He said “God Gabe. Only through God.” I agreed.
One of the main things I have picked up is to not be quick to react, but to be quick to understand. People can get caught up in emotions and can say things out of impulse because that’s just how we are as humans. In addition to that, you don’t know the environment or life that person lives and, and what lead the kid to think that the words he said were “ok” in the moment.
This is why I reacted the way I did, out of compassion and love, not out of hate. Everyone wants to be right, and there’s no humility when people are wrong. What I have realized is that giving into hate gives the one hating power and giving up power is exactly what the person hating wants. Treating hate with hate will only result in a constant cycle that we have been in regarding racism. There needs to be more love for each other in the game of lacrosse, and the world in general.
Mutual respect and understanding regarding perspectives is something that still needs to grow. I shook the kid’s hand I guarded after the game and I looked over to the kid that said what he said, and I told him “I wish you the best” and I walked away.
I sincerely meant it because I hope at some point in this kid’s life he will stop and think about that. I hope that it will change him, and he will realize that winning or losing, it is his choice to choose to respond with love or hate. It is my hope he will remember one day on a lacrosse field in Florida grace was extended to him from a player he tried to bring down with those hate filled words. I hope he will remember that moment and it will help him to choose Love.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a color-blind society, but the path is in front of us if only we take it. I won’t be adding my personal beliefs to this on something else that I believe would help because this is about Gabe’s experience and his feelings. One of his teammates came forward to correct me when I made the original mistake of the age group this occurred in and I offer that young man the same offer to talk about their experience here. I have not heard who the 3rd young man is yet, but the offer is open to you too.
Thank you Gabe for your insight and efforts to help the journey and we all hope you the best in the future, which we will be paying attention to!