FizzCast: Syracuse Lax Star Jovi Miller Challenges Warrior Equipment on Race

The Fizz spoke to Miller, who is trying to educate the community on an important racial issue.

Credit former Syracuse lacrosse star Jovan Miller for being able to create a discussion about race, and making it an intelligent conversation. Miller was a fan favorite at SU, and one of the school’s most popular recent players. But he stepped out of the box and challenged people’s thinking. Obviously, it’s a charged subject. But it’s a conversation that’s needed following Warrior Lacrosse’s attempt at a new slogan charged with racial overtones they didn’t know existed. He spoke with The Fizz.

Last week Jovan went off on Twitter (@JoviNation23) and received national attention for calling out Warrior for their new “Ninja please” campaign. The reaction was predictably mixed. Some said he was just a black player playing the race card. But Jovan comes from an educated background (his father holds a masters degree), and he took his time in the classroom at Syracuse seriously. The mindless “playing the race card” theory couldn’t be further off.

“Because 98% of the lacrosse community is caucasian, they didn’t know it could be offensive. It was one of those things where I just wanted to draw light to it. Obviously I took a firm and bold stance on the subject, but if I didn’t come out and say it the way I said it and present myself in a certain way then it wouldn’t have been taken seriously.”

This wasn’t a knee jerk reaction by Miller. It was calculated and measured, and Miller realizes he’s a black player in a predominantly white sport. He estimates 98% of lacrosse is white.

What he saw in Warrior wasn’t malice but ignorance. He saw a table full of white people, who were marketing to white fans, come up with a slogan that capitalized on a racially charged phrase. That phrase is commonly used in the black community, but isn’t something others can freely toss around.

“These people are adults. No matter if they’re black, white, latino, they’ve probably seen blatently racial issues whether it be through verbal communication or physical mistreatment or whatever. I’m pretty sure everyone on that staff knows that we live in sensitive times when it comes to racial issues.”

The world we live in is complicated when it comes to open discussion about racial issues. But this wasn’t about Miller simply trying to lob grenades at the other side. He has major problems with some prevailing ideas in his own community.

“A black man saying the white man is always trying to hold him down is the most ignorant thing I’ve heard in my life.”

Jovan’s mission in calling out Warrior and asking for a boycott of their equipment was to specifically educate kids. He understands the stage he has in his sport, (specifically in the outdoor game, where he was a star at SU and Warrior is the league’s primary sponsor). He believes with that comes responsibility to create an understanding.

“I just wish we had more educational opportunities for these kids. We just have to be conscious of what we put out there because when they get older if no one ever tells them differently, that’s the difference of a kid getting into a fight and he has no idea of why a kid from another race is upset because nobody corrected them.”

Fighting the “angry black man” stereotype is new for Miller. In fact, he’s spent most of his life fighting for his identity within his own race. Jovan grew up in the suburbs and says the culture shock for him was when he would go to his all-black church. There, kids would tell him “he didn’t talk black,” that “he talked white.” As Jovan grew old enough to form his own thoughts and be aware of who he was, he started to push back. He didn’t talk “white,” he talked “proper.” He wasn’t afraid to be educated. He was proud of it, because having a college education is something to wear with pride.

Jovan is not an angry black man, because he’s not an angry man. He is thoughtful and calculated. He understands his place as a minority in a sport that is, for now, dominated by a caucasian group of players and coaches. He doesn’t feel any added pressure to be a minority ambassador of his sport, but does want kids to see it as an opportunity other than football or basketball. Watching a former player try to advance understanding and push forward discussion is something Orange fans should be proud of.

Check out Miller’s Twitter timeline. He’s retweeted some of the ugliest comments he’s received. The tricky part with race is that we’re not discussing a clearly drawn policy. We’re discussing how issues of race make people feel, and there’s no universal playbook for that. But to learn how someone feels, you must engage them in a respectful manner. Which is exactly what I did with Jovan Miller. And we both likely learned something. Imagine that.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

16 Comments on this Post

  1. I think we are going crazy. I had no idea what that phrase meant to some.I also have no idea what the ad people were trying to say in using it. I had to go to an urban slang on line dictionary to see what Miller thought they were saying.Obviously the ad people did not want to offend anyone. We cant and shouldnt allow the our language to be held hostage or taken over by urban slang.I get tired of all the anticatholic, anti christian remarks that ARE intended to demean a religious belief.What are we told to do when they are published?? Ignore it. Its their freedom of speech. Get over it. You are too sensitive. Well right back at you.

  2. Keith, how can you possibly tell someone else how they should feel about a phrase that means nothing to you and everything to them? Your comment is a little confusing and I’m not exactly sure where you fall but I think you’re saying Jovan should get over it. The fact that you didn’t know is exactly the problem. He’s trying to create awareness and now you’re aware. You don’t get to decide what’s offensive to someone else, the person on the receiving end does.

  3. I am not telling him that he cant feel bad about something that someone said. I am saying there is a double standard.If he feels bad then he needed to go directly to the ad group that put it out and bring it to their attention.Maybe he did that. If so and they ignored him then to go public was correct. Sorry, with the unemployment, job losses, cut backs, the middle east on fire, this isnt really at the top of my concerns.

  4. One has nothing to do with the other. Who says we can’t solve multiple problems? Also, his point wasn’t to “fix” the ill-advised ad campaign, it was to educate people that this isn’t okay. By taking care of it privately, no one learns anything. He’s gotten (warranted) attention for a positive cause. This is a good thing.

  5. Jameson44

    Why doesn’t he call for a boycott of all the rap stars who use the phrase? They don’t mind that white people listen, pay for tickets to their concerts and buy their albums but when a white person says it or makes a play on words with it it’s offensive or racist. Probably a smart kid with good intentions but this is a little ridiculous to me. But then again what do I know I’m white and it’s their word…

  6. That’s kinda the point. It is a double standard, but that’s what it is. If you’re white, you can’t use that word. If you’re black, it’s your word. It’s like if someone makes fun of your little sister – sure you can do it but if someone else does they better watch out. Add that with the history of race relations in this country, multiply it by the intensity that comes with the ignorance a lot of people (not saying you Jameson, just in general) show and now you start to understand it.

    Is there a “double standard” with the word in that regard? Yes. However I don’t understand because he used his stage in lacrosse to resolve a problem with a lacrosse company, that you can bag on him for not solving every single racial issue in America. He took a positive step. What’s wrong with that?

  7. Jameson44

    There’s nothing wrong with taking a positive step but I’m curious to how he feels about the other end of that sword? I get it, lacrosse is his platform but would he have taken the same approach if he played basketball instead and the company was owned or managed by black people. I hope he would because if he didn’t then there’s no progress at all at least in my opinion.

  8. Russell MacEachern

    Im tired of all this “political” posturing on a sports blog while our country is splitting apart…and were worried about unfamiliar slogans?Can I no longer find escape from the insanity in sports?Please guys stay away from the politics….btw isn’t Jovan the ancient Briton Celtic god of war?As in “By Jove”?

  9. Russell MacEachern

    It appears Jovan was brought to ancient Briton by the Romans and was Latin for Jupiter?!?!Complex with several translations.

  10. Russell – I don’t really consider this political. This is a social issue. It’s not necessarily “sports” but this is a sports story too. Just because it’s not about the games, doesn’t mean it’s not about sports.

    Jameson – that’s a great question and I’m pretty sure he would. I’ve gotten to know Jovan a little bit and he’s not the type who’s afraid to speak his mind. I think he would have definitely stepped up.

  11. Sorry I just have an issue /w this. Why didn’t this kid beat his drum a few summers ago when Chad Johnson was using the phrase “Child please” all over t.v.? or just a few weeks ago when stephen a smith dropped the phrase on TV /w the N bomb an never got suspended? Why wasn’t he beating down espn’s door demanding that he was kicked off the air? Why? B/c he’s a hypocrite an saw a chance to call out a largely white sport an company. This is utterly ridiculous.

  12. Russell MacEachern

    Agree with Carlton,and Im already bored with this double standard!!

  13. Carlton it’s the sport that he plays. This is really shocking to me that everyone is seemingly against him stepping up and correcting something that was wrong that he could fix because he didn’t go after every other time in his life that there was some racial injustice. I obviously see and understand his side better than most I guess, which doesn’t inherently by any means make it right. There are multiple sides obviously but I refuse to accept “he’s only doing it because it’s lacrosse” as a reason to be dissatisfied that he did something right.

  14. Hoffman, This has nothing to do /w what sport he plays. This is a cultural issue. I’m not saying he should go after everyone. My issue is just 3 weeks ago a HUGE espn personality drops the phrase on live TV and I don’t recall him going off about that? Sorry everything you claim he avoided just isn’t true. He comes across as a angery race card playing black man. If he didn’t want to then y didn’t he check chad johnson? or stephen a? Shame on all the white devils! pliz! Like I said this ridiculous. If your not socially aware of something then don’t comment on it.

  15. Carlton this has everything to do with the sport he played. The company who used the slogan is the one that sponsored the league. You can’t say this wasn’t in his sport. I don’t get how you can listen to that interview and think he comes off as “an angry black man”.

  16. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

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