November 11, 2012

Warrior Responds to Miller Boycott Over Marketing Slogan

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Jovan Miller, an MLL fan favorite, during the 2012 MLL All-Star Game halftime skills competition in Florida.
© Ron Modra

It started nearly a week ago, when Charlotte Hounds midfielder Jovan Miller publicly boycotted Warrior products in response to the lacrosse apparel and equipment company's use of the racially charged marketing slogan "Ninja Please."

Miller, one of three black players in Major League Lacrosse, said the use of the phrase is offensive — it's known to be a pseudonym for "N-word please" — and there was malice behind Warrior's use of it.

The 23-year-old former Syracuse standout on Nov. 5 took to Twitter, where he first discovered the company's use of the slogan, to say he was giving away all of his Warrior branded products. That, and Miller's subsequent interactions with some of his more than 4,500 followers, caught the attention of media outlets such as Deadspin and NBC's local affiliate in Charlotte.

Warrior on Friday responded to Miller's boycott. Dave Dixon, the company's chief sports marketing officer, told WCNC of the slogan: "We are not using it anymore and we do apologize if it was taken the wrong way. If we had thought it was going to be offensive, we wouldn't have done it."

The company has removed references to the #ninjaplease social media campaign for their "Dojo" shoe that had been previously ongoing. Dixon, who didn't respond to a request for comment from Lacrosse Magazine, told WCNC he called Miller on Friday afternoon and left a message.

Major League Lacrosse, of which Warrior is a main sponsor, removed all references to the campaign on its social media pages upon being notified of what the slogan could be interpreted to mean, MLL commissioner David Gross said.

But Miller, a fan favorite in the MLL, says he might retire from the league as a result of the slogan's use. Miller has a sponsorship from another equipment and apparel company, Maverik, but Warrior outfits MLL players' uniforms.

"Obviously I want to play until my body can't play anymore," he said, "but I also want my heart to be in my play."

US Lacrosse on Sunday issued a statement supporting Miller's comments, actions and "intolerance of racism."

"His advocacy and courage, and that of so many others within lacrosse, reflect the culture of inclusion that is essential to our sport's responsible development," the statement reads, in part. "His example of leadership has generated widespread praise from the national membership, staff and volunteer leadership of US Lacrosse."

Said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse: "Our vision is that every child should have the opportunity to benefit from a positive lacrosse experience. Racially derogatory comments and references impede the advancement of lacrosse and have no place within our sport."

Miller, in a lengthy interview with blogtalkradio.com, touched on a variety of related topics in the wide-ranging conversation, which is available here.

In the time since his actions have made national news, Miller has received hateful messages via social media, which he has retweeted to his Twitter account. He's also expressed sentiment that the reaction to his boycott has been overwhelming. On Friday night, he asked if anyone was around the Charlotte area "to help me get my mind off this subject" by going to watch a movie.

On Sunday, he thanked his supporters and also said, "God has given me some normalcy again! THANK YOU! Its time to get my mind off the hate and enjoy my days!"

Miller was the eighth overall pick by the Rochester Rattlers in the 2011 MLL draft after a four-year career at Syracuse, where he was part of two national championship teams (2008 and 2009).

Miller was named to the MLL's Young Guns all-star team in 2012 after being traded to the Hounds, and he is an assistant men's coach at Division II Queens University of Charlotte. He has served as an assistant coach at Dallas Jesuit High (Texas), and as a camp counselor at Syracuse's summer lacrosse camp. He also has worked as a Southeast region sales representative for Maverik.

The use of the hashtag #ninjaplease had been active on social media for several weeks. On Oct. 26, the Ohio Machine's Chazz Woodson wrote on his Facebook page, "Today I had the good fortune of speaking with 10 other members of the Black lacrosse community; some professional players, all recent one players, and all active in growing and developing the sport. It was clear that we all felt that this was an opportunity to really spark some dialogue in the general lacrosse community about this campaign, but maybe more importantly about how we handle race in this sport."


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