• Emily Phillips

Fan or Foe?

By: Emily Phillips | Girlfriend of Jerian Grant, Player for Orlando Magic

If someone is speaking quite OFTEN about YOU, it’s safe to say you may have yourself a “fan.” It comes from the word - fanatic - “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal…” In this world, I can more often than not call a “fan”...“hater.” What happened to just cheering for your favorite team and/or player?

To start, social media is the powerhouse of our generation, and it has single-handedly taken hater-ism and “opinions” to a whole different level—especially in the realm of sports where EVERYONE is a professional critic and has a degree in sports analysis. Yea, ok. 

When I graduated from college in 2012, social media wasn’t as involved yet. Now, trash talking follows these players home from the arena. It’s everywhere! It consumes people. Millennials eat, sleep and breathe social media. I’m guilty of it too, smh, I won’t flex. That is, being on social media apps on my phone over half of the day.

Anyone and everyone assumes they have a platform to spark conversation and create opinions about this, that and the third, and so many people feel the need to attack professional athletes. I am writing this blog to stand up for my man. Don’t get it twisted, he can defend himself, but the targeting from strangers has gotten out of control at times. Jerian has been in the league four years now, this year being with our third team. After his rookie year in New York, we were traded to Chicago. The Bulls were home for us for two years and this past summer, we were then traded to the Orlando Magic. It’s been tough being uprooted from place to place, not to mention bringing along our kids each time. I cannot tell you how many times I have felt overwhelmed and made things about ME. It wasn’t until this last trade where I finally checked myself and asked myself, “Well Em, how do you think J feels about all the changes and switch-a-roos happening in his career?” In that moment, a lot of things became personal and real for me, including social media attacks toward my man on the regular.

The nerve from those sitting behind their devices is one thing. But get this, it recently happened in person. I was in Chicago for the New Year and Jerian had a game. A few fans were sitting behind me and they were going for the home team (to be expected). Obviously, I was not, so they asked me if I knew someone on the team and I told them yes. Of course, they asked who and I told them. One of the guys said with his beer in hand, “Jerian Grant? I’m almost better than he is!” I turned around and said, “You are entitled to your own opinion that I will not strip you from; but do NOT disrespect my man and the father of my children in front of me after I just told you who he was to me. Thank YOU!” The nerve of people in this world! I think I handled it quite well, though. By the end of the game, they were Jerian Grant fans LOL! Well, at least to my face.

People tell me all the time that I shouldn’t read the stuff put out on there and that I should understand that it comes with the territory. Yes, we also get that there is so much on the line and frankly too much to lose getting caught in this nonsense back and forth banter. BUT, all that is easier said than done. Sure, this may be something we signed up for but let me tell you something…catch me on the right day, and I might have to check you with some FACTS and redirect your ignorance elsewhere.

Ultimately, what we forget is how these people in the public eye are human beings, too. My boyfriend is a regular person just like you and I. He’s a dad, son, friend and brother. He’s a 26 year old growing young man who is still figuring life out by the day, including his career. He happens to be talented enough (and he works extremely hard) to play in the NBA. The way he is insulted by these cyber bully (yes bully) strangers is disheartening and cruel. I mean, for me, it’s different because I’ve played the game so I know the game. This is why it is personal for me because I also know the struggles that come along with it—confidence, different coaching styles, teammates, losing streaks, rhythm, injuries—you name it. So I’m able to empathize, not only as a girlfriend, but also as a former player. The fact everyone cannot do this is why one should consider taking caution before undermining, demeaning and insulting people in professions they have no direct experience with. I know some people will read this and tell me to get off my soapbox and that’s cool. But know this: I am the protector of my family and take pride in keeping peace in my home. I pray for my man every day he leaves this house and that God keeps negative energy far from him and brings about positivity and spiritual light that guides him every step of the way. I’m sure he sees the hate mail that comes his way because people will write him directly just so he will get it. And he may be used to it honestly but me, I still have my days where you can catch some clap-backs. Hey, we are all a work in progress. Ya’ll, keep praying for me. ☺

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