National Anthem Has Special Meaning to Mary Joyner, Flo-Jo's Daughter

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

The Flo-Jo uniforms have returned this season to rave reviews. The Pacers are 4-0 so far when donning the iconic jerseys the team wore regularly from 1990-97.

For fans, the uniforms hearken back to the halcyon days at the height of the Reggie Miller era, so it’s especially exciting to see George Hill, David West, and Roy Hibbert carrying on that legacy.

But those jerseys would have never existed if not for the creative vision of USA track & field star Florence Griffith-Joyner, who designed the uniforms in the late ‘80s.

On Sunday, the Pacers will put on their Flo-Jo jerseys for the fifth and final time at home this season (they’ll wear them once more on April 8 in New York). As they go for another win in the Flo-Jo’s, the Pacers will welcome a very special guest to Bankers Life Fieldhouse as Mary Joyner, Flo-Jo’s daughter, will attend the game and sing the national anthem.

Mary Joyner comes from the first family of American track & field. Her father, Al Joyner, won the gold medal in the triple jump at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her mother won three gold medals in 1988 in Seoul. Her aunt, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, won two gold medals in Seoul and another in 1992 in Barcelona.

Of course, when an American Olympic athlete receives a gold medal, the stadium speakers blare the Star-Spangled Banner. That part of the ceremony was particularly moving for Griffith-Joyner.

“The national anthem meant so much to my mother,” Mary said.

Mary Joyner has a different passion than her parents, one that the national anthem helped inspire. When she was just two years old, Mary learned what she used to call her Mom’s “Olympic song,” sparking a lifelong love of music. Rather than push her to follow in her parent’s footsteps, Joyner’s family encouraged her to follow her dreams.

Her mother, who passed away in 1998 when Mary was just seven years old, also had talent that extended beyond the athletics arena.

Florence Griffith-Joyner always had an eye for fashion. Mary remembers spending hours on end with her mother in her arts and crafts room. Not only did Flo-Jo design the Pacers' uniforms, she designed and sewed herself Mary’s leotards for gymnastics competitions.

But for all her talents, there was one gift that she never possessed.

“I got told that my mother said that if she could do one thing – because she was so multi-talented – it would definitely be singing,” Mary Joyner said. “So it’s amazing that I got the gift that she didn’t have.”

As she grew older, Joyner began to realize the gift she possessed. At first, singing was a very personal and private thing.

“When I was going through a tough time in my life, basically I would always go to my keyboard or piano and just start playing my heart out,” Joyner recalled. “I started writing songs as a form of therapy.”

Later, she began to branch out. She sang in choir in high school, where she realized that she wanted to pursue singing full-time. She appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2012, where she wowed the judges with her rendition of Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity.”

But the song that’s always had a special meaning to Joyner is the national anthem. She got the opportunity to perform the song in the track & field stadium at the 2012 US Olympic Trials.

“That was a very big moment for me,” Joyner recalled.

On Sunday, Joyner will get to perform the anthem once again in another special venue. It wasn’t until a few years ago that Joyner found out that her mother had helped design uniforms for the Pacers. Her father dug up her mother’s old sketches and designs and showed them to her daughter, who was blown away.

“It’s great because her work lives on,” Mary Joyner said. “I know she put her passion and her heart into the design. Out of all those uniforms, I love her designs because they actually fit in this generation as well. I believe her designs are timeless. I just know she would be so happy and so proud of her work being re-recognized.”

Come Sunday night, The Fieldhouse will surely be rocking. The Pacers’ playoff push is heating up and Sunday’s game against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs could go a long way in determining whether the Blue & Gold get into the postseason for the fifth straight year.

Having Flo-Jo’s daughter in the building to help kick off the festivities should make the atmosphere even more exciting.

“For me to be singing the national anthem at a Pacers game while the team wears those uniforms, it’s such an honor,” Joyner said. "...This is like a dream come true.”

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