Arielle Ramirez: Becoming Lacrosse's Black Panther

Arielle Ramirez: Becoming Lacrosse's Black Panther

This article, as told to Matt DaSilva, appears in the April edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, which includes a special 12-page section featuring faces and voices of the black lacrosse community. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

When I started playing lacrosse, it was immediate to me that it looks like I’m the only one here. That’s kind of a pivotal stage where how you’re viewed is important. I was just very self-conscious when I was on that field. I wanted to be liked, and I wanted people to think that I was good.

I came from the program in my town. It was very diverse and developmental. I grew out of that and I went to the club level. The girls there were serious and I was serious too, but I felt like they didn’t take me seriously. I felt for a long time that I was playing to show other people that I could play. I’m not even playing for me anymore.

Category: 
High School
Author: 
Arielle Ramirez
Body Section One: 

I live in Baldwin, N.Y. The PAL program was starting up a girls’ lacrosse program. Baldwin is pretty diverse. That program was run by volunteers from the community. I had a diverse group of coaches. I played with black and brown girls and I played with white girls. Being from the same town helped us connect on a level that I wasn’t feeling when I was on this [club] team. We were all learning. There was no room to look down on anyone. That helped our bond.

My dad is Puerto Rican. That whole Afro-Latino, that’s him. And my mom is a hundred percent black. When I got [to club], I felt like I had to overcompensate for something that I didn’t have, which I wasn’t white. 

Quote: 
“I came in Monday morning for practice. Somebody wrote, [N-word] b-tch on my locker. I was only 13.”
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Body Section Two: 

The amount of people that ask to touch my hair on a daily basis is ridiculous. Sometimes I would come to practice with my hair braided so maybe nobody would ask me about it. “How do you get your hair like that? Do you wash it? Do you shower every day? Do you tan?”

I’ve been running track since I was 9. As you can imagine, that helped me with lacrosse. I’m a sprinter, so those short bursts, I’m good for that. I’m pretty built for a girl. Some people tell me my legs look like a man’s. They act like I have some type of unfair physical advantage over them. “Don’t black people have an extra bone that makes you faster?” What that translates into is I didn’t get to this place because I worked hard and put in the extra time and effort. I got to this place because I have an extra bone.

This is the one that’s always going to stick with me: It was my first year of high school. I was a freshman trying out for the lacrosse team. All of my friends were going to spring track. I decided that if I didn’t make JV A and only JV B, I wasn’t going to play.

I made JV A. We got our lockers. Everyone gets a little piece of paper to write their name and put it on their locker. I came in Monday morning for practice. Somebody wrote, “[N-word] b-tch” on my locker, on the tag with my name.

I took it off, put it in my pocket, called my dad and cried a lot. I wanted to quit. I still don’t know who did that. It could be somebody I still play with today and I’d have no idea. I was only 13.

Body Section Three: 

Why didn’t I leave the sport? I liked it a lot and I was good. My parents had sacrificed for me to do this. This sport is by no means cheap, especially at the elite level. One thing I do love about lacrosse is the different forms. With track, it’s about running and it’s about form. It’s very cookie cutter. With lacrosse, I felt like I had this creative freedom.

The problem is the way the sport is marketed and the way we expose people to it. We had to go out and look for it. What is a club lacrosse team? We didn’t know we’d be traveling and all these expenses would come. It is rooted in the socioeconomics. If you factor in price of equipment, travel, hotels, eating on the road, tournament fees and the fee to be a part of the team, that’s out of reach for a lot of people.

You still need that person to put that hand out to you and tell you that you can play this sport. It helps having representation, like Kyle Harrison and Myles Jones. It’s probably how a lot of little kids feel going to see “Black Panther.” I can be a superhero. That’s what representation does. It’s so real. 

I don’t want to make it sound like all my experiences were bad. It wasn’t like everyone was out to get me. The other reason I stayed with lacrosse is because I liked aspects of my team. I liked my coaches. I want to be the person that I didn’t have when I started to play. I want someone to look and say, “She did this. I can do this.”

Short Summary: 
The Hartford commit once felt a need to overcompensate for something she didn't have. She wasn't white.
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Photographer Main Image: 
PHOTO BY LEE WEISSMAN
Photographer Parallax: 
PHOTO COURTESY OF ARIELLE RAMIREZ
Photo Main Caption: 
Arielle Ramirez is a senior midfielder at Kellenberg (N.Y.) and for Liberty Lacrosse. Also a track and field standout, the Baldwin, N.Y., native will play Division I lacrosse at Hartford.