Before I address my concerns on the state of the game, I would like to encourage anyone who reads this letter to keep an open ear to HEAR the message, and an open heart to FEEL the message. The game of lacrosse has literally been the most important thing in my life for over half of my existence and I am nothing without the game. Through this sport, I have literally attained the thing I covet the most, my education; one through playing (Syracuse University), another through coaching (Queens University of Charlotte), and the other through exploring (Loughborough University in the United Kingdom). As a man who has accomplished so much in this game, it would be difficult to wonder why I am so incredibly disappointed in the game of lacrosse, but I am. As a black lacrosse player, or minority lacrosse player for that matter, it goes unnoticed the plight that we face once we join a lacrosse team. For most of our playing career, what matters most has nothing to do with the color of our skin, but only defined by one, simple question: “Can you play?” This letter represents the young boys and girls of color whose stories have went untold for far too long.
If you have never thought about what we as minorities go through, I encourage you to ask; you may be surprised at the answer you get. As I proceed, I will ask the game of lacrosse some questions I hope to get some answers to in the near future.
To begin, I want every coach, parent, player or referee to answer this question for themselves: Have I been a part of the problem or the solution?
After being involved with the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for three years, I have realized that the game of lacrosse has two definitions of the word, “diversity;” every other hashtag continues to voice “#GrowTheGame.” One definition seems more concerned with the quantity of people playing the game of lacrosse rather than its quality; the other is more concerned with the growth of the MIND. Being more socially conscious of the world around them and understanding both appropriate and inappropriate etiquette on and off the field.
I do not have enough time to tell you how many ordeals regarding racial altercations that I have heard from numerous groups of people, friends and family in our sport where the issue was never addressed, but rather ignored (at least 20+ instances). We as people have the choice to be a part of every problem or solution. To continuously hear from my friends in the lacrosse industry that they had no idea some of these things were happening or have happened, is a problem in and of itself. It is understandable to an extent to be unaware, or ignorant to someone else’s plight, but it is another thing altogether to have knowledge of it, and choose not to act. It is fairly simple: Within the word “ignorance,” there is also the word “IGNORE.” This notion only upholds the idea that unacceptable behavior is acceptable. If you are not correcting it, you are allowing it. I encourage the game to heed these words, and understand their significance.
Recently, I attended the Lacrosse Convention in Baltimore, MD for three reasons:
1) Attend the U.S. Lacrosse Diversity & Inclusion panel Friday evening
2) Catch up with some dear friends and former teammates
3) Meet Alex Aust
One of these objectives was not achieved, and regardless of whether I completed my checklist or not, I was disappointed in the progress of the panel meeting. U.S. Lacrosse did their very best to give us the opportunity to find solutions, but there was only so much the voices in that room could do if the lacrosse world as a whole does not take action.
Although I am disappointed in my inability to meet with Ms. Aust, I do not hold any ill will towards her. The unfortunate symbolism of our inability to connect is parallel to the problems that we as minorities face in the game of lacrosse on the daily. Regardless of whether you have work obligations, or any other activities set up, you make TIME for the things you deem most important. The truth behind Mr. Underwood’s “Convicts” Instagram post of a month ago, or Ms. Aust’s unfortunate Instagram picture recently, is that they are not the first of their kind; this sort of thing has been an issue in our game for at least the past five years. Let us not forget when rapper, Jay-Z, mentioned lacrosse in a rap song. I found it somewhat confusing that the game of lacrosse was more offended that a multi-platinum rap artist referred to our game as “soft” yet minorities in our sport have so many stories of racial divide at the club, high school, and college level and there is no uproar. Please explain this to me. The reactions of the minorities that make up this game were simply our frustration reaching its tipping point. The disappointment comes more from the fact that besides an “apology,” WE as a community never addressed what transpired in either case.
I assume most of us watch sports regularly, or at some point during our week, and I ask of the game of lacrosse: If an NFL or NBA player outside of the demographic they represent says something racially insensitive that offends an entire group of people, are they labeled “brave” for apologizing? Athletes have lost endorsement deals for saying a whole lot less, yet lacrosse seems to be telling us this is acceptable behavior. With that being said, I ask the game of lacrosse:
– Is our well-being not important to you?
– How can the game truly “grow” if every group that represents it does not feel like their issues are properly addressed and/or handled?
– Where do WE go from here as a sport?
– Why do these stories not get more attention?
– To my fellow Athletes: Are you silent because you are protecting your brand, or does this issue not affect you?
– How do we ensure that these situations do no continue to happen, and if they do what is fair punishment for these actions?
Until next time lacrosse,
Minorities in Lacrosse Leader, Jovan Miller