A lacrosse equipment company apologized Friday for an ad campaign that prompted a boycott by Charlotte Hounds midfielder Jovan Miller.
Warrior Sports also has removed all references of the controversial “Ninja Please” tagline on its site and social media accounts. The company is a major investor in Major League Lacrosse.
“We are not using it anymore and we do apologize if it was taken the wrong way,” Warrior Sports Chief Marketing Officer Dave Dixon told NBC Charlotte, the Observer’s news partner. “If we had thought it was going to be offensive, we wouldn’t have done it.”
Dixon said the company was attempting a play on words to sell the “Dojo” shoe. Still, many people online didn’t buy the explanation, noting the offensive meaning is the first that comes up in a Google search.
Miller, a Syracuse graduate and former All-American, said he first noticed the campaign tagline being used on Twitter a few weeks ago.
“It kind of alarmed me at first,” he said. “The actual meaning behind ‘Ninja Please’ is the ’N-word Please.’ They put ninja in it to kind of disguise it.”
Miller said he later learned the tagline was from an ad campaign for Warrior Sports.
He said while he “didn’t feel like there was necessarily malice behind it,” he thought the tagline went too far. He said he reached out to the company and, in the meantime, began giving away all of his Warrior-branded gear.
On Friday, the Warrior Sports’ chief marketing officer said he left a message for Miller.
But the company does not plan to further the effort. “We apologized, we pulled it from the site and we are moving on,” Dixon said.
Miller, who is one of only three African-American players in the league, said he was hoping the company will use this as a “teachable moment” for the sport about racial sensitivity.
As for his future in the league, which rests upon his willingness to wear Warrior gear during games, Miller is still unsure.
“I can’t really answer now. Obviously I want to play until my body can’t play anymore, but I also want my heart to be in my play.”