Monday, December 5, 2022

'Being quiet doesn’t help anybody': Jagger Joshua speaks out after being called racial slurs by Ohio State player

November 22, 2022
<p>Senior forward Jagger Joshua (23) reaches for the puck during a game of ice hockey between MSU and Wisconsin at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 4, 2022. The Spartans won, 5-0.</p>

Senior forward Jagger Joshua (23) reaches for the puck during a game of ice hockey between MSU and Wisconsin at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 4, 2022. The Spartans won, 5-0.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

In the 24 hours after Michigan State hockey senior forward Jagger Joshua spoke out about being called racial slurs “multiple times” by an Ohio State player during a game between the teams on Nov. 11, he received an outpouring of support from members both in and outside of the MSU community. 

Joshua addressed the media Tuesday afternoon to explain his reasoning for publicly shedding light on the incident, as well as the changes he hopes to see in hockey in the future.

The Big Ten released a statement explaining it “collected and evaluated information” from the game’s officiating crew, OSU, MSU and available video footage stemming from the incident, but “due to the absence of indisputable evidence presented to the conference,” the Big Ten “has not imposed further disciplinary action.”

Joshua said he is unhappy with the Big Ten’s refusal to move forward with additional discipline. 

“(The decision) left me just confused and frustrated with feeling like my voice doesn't matter,” Joshua said. “That's one of the reasons I took to social media myself, and because obviously, the Big Ten wasn't listening to what I had to say, so I felt the need to express my feelings myself, because I just believe that, if nobody's gonna stick up for myself, then I got to.”

Joshua, who is in the midst of a breakout season and leads the Spartans with six goals, said the referee heard the slurs and initiated the game misconduct call. 

“I never communicated once to the ref that something was said – the ref heard it on his own, he reported it on his own and he handled it on his own,” Joshua said.

Joshua said he sent the referee a text message thanking him for his swift action in reporting the incident and that his support gave Joshua the courage to come forward publicly.   

“Not everybody has a witness like that or has somebody that can tell their story,” Joshua said.

The morning after the game, Joshua said he completed a report with the Big Ten conference and “fully cooperated” with the investigation.

Dealing with racial bias from a young age while playing hockey

Growing up, Joshua, a Dearborn native, said he often experienced racial bias and injustice while playing hockey due to the sport’s lack of diversity among players. 

“I've heard all types of language that discourages other kids like myself from playing, so it's definitely not just a one-time thing, and that's where the problem is,” Joshua said. “I think it's been a little too accepted in today's world.”

Joshua’s older brother, Dakota, played at Ohio State from 2015-2019, and was on the team for a year with OSU senior forward Kamil Sadlocha, who received the only 10-minute major of the Nov. 11 game at the 10:39 mark of the second period. 

Joshua said Dakota is “fully supportive” of him and is thankful to have someone who has “gone through the same things” as him in life. 

“(Dakota’s) been put in a tough situation as well with obviously playing there and playing for that coach,” Joshua said. “Not that he has to believe me, but he is fully on my side … to have a brother like that and somebody obviously of the same skin tone … so somebody like that in my life is so crucial. I'm just thankful for it.”

An outpouring of support

Joshua said he appreciates the support he received following his post about the incident, his teammates being at the forefront, as they stood behind him since he first made the report two weeks ago. 

“They’re thankful that they get to play with a player like me because of my background and the color of my skin,” Joshua said. “Not a lot of hockey players are exposed getting to play with players of color, and so I think this is a life learning lesson for them, as well as myself, and they've been nothing but supportive, and I know they got my back. It's always a little bit easier to come out too when you have that support system.”

MSU players expressed their support for Joshua by reposting and sharing his initial statement on social media. One of those players is graduate goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, who’s in his first season with the team and first after transferring from Quinnipiac. Before that, St. Cyr spent four seasons with Notre Dame. 

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St. Cyr said the team’s support is a testament to the culture at Michigan State and among the players.

“We're proud of (Joshua) and what he wants to do and accomplish and that's something we're going to continue to support,” St. Cyr said. “What we value is our teammates, and obviously we kind of want to be respectful of his opinions and his stance as well.”

Team captain and graduate forward Miroslav Mucha reiterated St. Cyr’s support for Joshua. It is also Mucha’s first year with the Spartans, as he transferred to MSU from Lake Superior State before the start of the season. 

“That kind of behavior is unacceptable and we're standing by Jagger and we support him,” Mucha said. “Ever since I came on a team, he's just another guy on the team … nobody's looking at him different. He's a great guy. We love having him around, he brings a lot of energy and he's a very funny guy, so we're very glad to have him on the team.”

Other members of the university community publicly shared their support for Joshua, including MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller, Head Hockey Coach Adam Nightingale, Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff and former MSU and NHL player Anson Carter.

The Ohio State ice hockey student section also released a statement standing with Joshua, condemning the actions of the OSU player and urging the university to take action. 

Joshua said he received additional support from parents of children going through similar situations, which reassured him that coming forward and making a public statement was the right choice.

“I know that I'm not the only one out there and not a lot of people that experienced what I experienced have a platform to speak, so I thought it was very important for me to come out personally and let people know that you're really not alone and that this in hockey doesn't belong and it happens way too often for it to just go unnoticed,” Joshua said.

As for what he hopes will come from this incident, Joshua said he is focused on changing the culture of the sport and spreading awareness. He added the best way to ensure changes are made is to talk about the issues.

“Being quiet doesn’t help anybody,” Joshua said. “I'm not trying to make the rules. I just hope that one day hockey is accepted enough for kids like me to grow up, and they don't have to go through the same struggles that I went through and they don't have to deal with the same negativity that defers a lot of young African Americans and minorities from playing hockey and honestly loving the game.”

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