After a marketing campaign for its "Ninja" line of products, Warrior Lacrosse has found itself in a sticky—well, really sticky—spot.
On Oct. 17, the company ran a contest to win a pair of Dojo shoes, with this picture of the Boston Cannons' Paul Rabil running on its Facebook page. The rules of the contest? Fans of Warrior's page had to write a comment and tag it with the phrase #ninjaplease. One lucky tagger got the shoes.
A couple of days ago, the Charlotte Hounds' Jovan Miller, who is black, wrote this on his Twitter account as a response to the campaign:
The source of Miller's frustration? The Oct. 17 Warrior ad. He continued with this:
And, since the MLL is co-founded by Warrior founder David Morrow, meaning every player has to use some Warrior team equipment, Miller also hinted that he may retire:
Miller has only been in the league for two years now. And he's at the height of his talents. He was featured on SportsCenter earlier this year for a dunk goal. But Warrior has yet to apologize to Miller or anyone else for the campaign, giving endorsement, then, for the guy to retire.
Which is wrong, and—yes, I'm sure I'll catch shit for being "P.C." or whatever—a sign that Warrior has been in the wrong from the very start. While the shoes are called the "Ninjas," and if you are trying to win the shoes, you'd presumably say, "I want X shoes, please," everyone knows the ad campaign was designed to connect with the phrase "ninja please," and its root phrase "nigga please." The term "Ninja please" and what it really means has been commonly known for years. There's this seven-year-old definition from Urban Dictionary: "Used to replace negro please, which in turn replaces nigga please." And there's this 1-million-plus view YouTube video satirizing its connection between the African-American and Asian-American communities:
Do I think Rabil was in the wrong? Of course not. In fact, he probably didn't know this campaign existed. Do I even think Warrior did this maliciously? No, I don't. Without knowing what their thought process was, I venture a guess that they thought the contest would be a clever and profitable way to hop off a commonly heard expression.
But if you're going to grow a sport and rid its perceived notion of being the sport of just a certain upper-class Northeastern subculture, then you've got to be sensitive to this shit. You don't fuck around with race, and you certainly don't go radio silent while one of your sport's best players publicly says he's offended by your actions. Warrior should apologize for the campaign, and when the next one rolls around, it should think about its sport in a national sense, not just a white one. Otherwise, you're screwed.