A League of His Own
Paul Rabil, 34-year-old professional lacrosse player and co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League, is the truest physical embodiment of the idea that if you want something done right, do it yourself. His athletic career was running before it even hit the ground. In 2008, he was selected first overall by the Boston Cannons in the Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft; just four years later, he had already been named the league’s MVP twice and had won Offensive Player of the Year three times. Many considered Rabil, an already highly-decorated and accomplished athlete, to be the best lacrosse player in the world – but he was just getting started.
After over ten boundary-breaking years on the field, Rabil was intimately familiar with all the challenges and obstacles lacrosse players had to face, and in them, he saw a unique opportunity both for himself and for his beloved sport. “I felt, towards the second half of my career as a veteran, that not only was it possible for the sport to grow at an expedited rate, but I also took on this sense of duty to the sport – given where it was, and where it had been, over the last ten years in particular – for myself and some of my colleagues,” he says. Unlivable starting wages in other leagues were detrimentally stifling the potential of so many players, but Rabil envisioned a new future for lacrosse.
Thus, the Premier Lacrosse League was born, boasting completely game-changing innovations for both its fans and its players, including much-needed wage increases, healthcare benefits, stock options, and the freedom to be true to themselves. In the era of Colin Kaepernick, speaking out as an athlete is widely considered taboo – too far outside of what a sports player should do. But through the PLL, Rabil believes in changing that. “What we’ve done in lacrosse stands for the movement we see more athletes doing across all different walks of life, which is taking power into their own hands and doing what they believe in,” he adds.
Led by the ever-pioneering Paul Rabil and his brother, Mike Rabil, it’s no surprise that the PLL has made such historic strides since its conception. When sports leagues across the board suffered from COVID-19 threats, restrictions, and cancellations, Rabil quickly adapted. “We take a lot of pride in being the first team-sports league in North America to announce a plan back in May, and to build what’s being commonly coined as the ‘bubble,’” he shares. “We were meticulous around it, and as a result, we had zero COVID-positive tests over the course of our 3-week tournament.” Recently, the PLL was even namedSports Business Journal’s Sports Breakthrough of the Year.
However, being an ingenious new organization under the media spotlight comes with huge responsibilities. Lacrosse, though garnering a reputation in the early 2000’s of being a sport primarily for affluent white men, is the oldest sport native to North America and has deep historical and cultural roots. And Rabil aims to “tell a better, more transparent history of the sport. This sport is rooted in the Native-American culture, and it was created by specifically the Haudenosaunee people, which is part of the Iroquois Confederacy now. I think our sport is due to revisit its origin story, and we’re lucky to be able to tell that story through the PLL.”
In the increasingly lonely world of social distancing and political divisiveness, Rabil also thinks that sport just might be what can bring us all back together again. “Sport has the ability to inspire the entire family at the dinner table,” he affirms. “We can have a conversation about a championship game with our grandparents, our parents, our friends – and that lives across generation, gender, race, and creed.”
Writer: Summer Myatt
Photographer: Daniel Lennox
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)