“We have sent letters from the National Lacrosse League explaining why the team will have a lot of financial damage and public relations problems if they have to cancel their first game,” said Klarin. “We sent a letter from the Gwinnett Chamber about the economic impact on the county.”
The crush last week contacted the offices of US Senator Raphael Warnock, US MP Carolyn Bourdeaux and US MP Buddy Carter, among others.
“We appreciate that several offices were involved,” said Klarin on Monday. “This was obviously a very important issue considering how many resources were able and willing to step in. … We are really grateful that USCIS was willing to take another look at this.
“I was honestly dancing around my office,” when she found out about the reversal, she said.
The crush, which won the NLL championship in 2017, faced this issue as the league prepared to resume play for the first time since it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The rest of this season and all of the next season have been canceled. The league is now approaching the 2021-22 season with a new national TV deal with ESPN, and Arlotta said the crush has a new local TV deal in the works.
The team has held a training camp in Canada and is scheduled to fly to Atlanta on the Thursday before Saturday’s opening game against the Colorado Mammoth at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Gas South Arena, formerly known as the Infinite Energy Arena.
The crush was puzzled by the Citizenship and Immigration Service’s original denial of visas, as applications from the other eight U.S. teams in the 14-team NLL have already been approved.
“The difference is that most of the teams’ applications were submitted to the Vermont Service Center, while the crush had to go through the California Service Center,” Klarin said. “It just depends on where your headquarters are.
“One of the big problems is that USCIS continues to refuse to recognize that lacrosse is a major league sport. … If they simply recognized lacrosse as a major league sport, approval would likely be a lot easier, “because the Vermont Service Center, most experienced in handling P-1 petitions for all of the major sports-related leagues, would handle requests from all NLL teams.
Klarin said efforts will continue to get USCIS to designate lacrosse as a major league sport “to avoid this type of confusion in the future.”