In a controversial move, the National Football League’s (NFL) competition committee is expected to enact a rule that would penalize a player 15-yards for using the N-word on the field. The Fitz Pollard Alliance, a group that monitors diversity in the NFL, believes that the committee will introduce the rule at the owner’s meeting this month.
“We did talk about it, I’m sure that you saw near the end of the year that Fritz Pollard (Alliance) came out very strong with the message that the league needs to do something about the language on the field,” Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, who is on the league’s competition committee, told ESPN. “So we did discuss over the last three days.”
The committee discussed other insults, such as homophobic slurs, as falling under the potential new rule.
John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, persuaded players to refrain from using the N-word altogether. He believes that the NFL will give an automatic 15-yard penalty for first-time offenders and an ejection for a second offense.
“I think they’re going to do what needs to be done here,” he told ESPN. “There is too much disrespect in the game.”
Many are wary about the rule because it would be difficult to police and difficult to verify who made the infraction. Others do not think that the rule will succeed in ridding the field of the slur.
“Ultimately, if the NFL can get it done, it’s great for our game,” free agent linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told themmqb.com. “But I think refs have a hard enough time officiating the game now. Now they’d be asked to police language?”
The news of the possible rule has sparked much debate with current and former players on both sides of the argument.
Richard Sherman, a controversial Seattle Seahawks player who declared himself the best cornerback in the league in a postgame interview, disagreed with the ban. In an interview with themmqb.com, Sherman argued that the N-word ending in “-a” was not derogatory, while the one ending in “-er” was.
“It’s an atrocious idea,” Sherman told the website. “It’s almost racist, to me. It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”
“It’s in the locker room and on the field at all times,” Sherman told website. “I hear it almost every series out there on the field.”
Tennessee Titans cornerback Jason McCourty agreed with Sherman that the possible rule targets a specific group of players.
“It’s a common word in so many players’ everyday lives,” McCourty told themmqb.com. “Among African-American players and people, it’s used among friends all the time. It seems like a bit much for the NFL to try to get rid of it. It’s a pretty common word in the locker room.”
On the other side, Wooten and many former players believe that it is time to clean up the game. They point at the historical use of the word and how it continues to subjugate the minds of those who use it. Although some players feel that this new rule change is racist, there are a number of people who believe that policing the use of the N-word is a step in the right direction.
“I’m glad John Wooten and the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation see themselves and all of us as men,” Jason Whitlock, a columnist for ESPN, said and “I hope Roger Goodell and the NFL ignore the critics and impose a code of workplace conduct that forces young black men to abandon white supremacy’s greatest weapon.”
Many have said the NFL’s proposal to curb the use of racial slurs on the field is a step towards progress in making the league a more tolerable “workplace,” but it is not perfect. They forget that the rule will be open to interpretation and penalties may be called differently each week. They also forget about off the field and still fail to address incidents of bullying like the one involving Miami Dolphins’ guard Richie Incognito harassing offensive tackle Jonathan Martin in the locker room.
The wait and debate will continue as the completion committee discusses what will hopefully be a clear and comprehensive rule that will establish a code of conduct for the NFL workplace.