Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Community News Network

February 25, 2014

NFL is right to ban N-word, other slurs, from the playing field

— NFL players must adhere to all types of rules regarding on-field safety. It's time for them to work under one addressing the use of inappropriate language in the workplace.

There's momentum within the NFL to institute a rule by which players would be penalized 15 yards for using discriminatory words on the field, especially the N-word. A second violation could result in an ejection. Enacting such a rule would be the correct thing to do, and the NFL should be highly motivated to do it.

Two events recently - University of Missouri all-American defensive lineman Michael Sam announcing he is gay and the harassment, racism and homophobia cited in the report on the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal - have stirred questions about tolerance in the NFL. The commissioner's office has reaffirmed its commitment to creating a safe working environment in which players are free to be open about their sexual orientation. A rule prohibiting on-field slurs is the next logical step in that process.

For NFL players, the field is their office. There are laws prohibiting the use of discriminatory language in the workplace. In no other business are employees legally empowered to harass co-workers based on their race, ethnicity, religious preference or sexual orientation. Why should the working environment in the NFL be any different? It's as simple as that, though I realize use of the N-word is complex.

In the NFL today, African-American players regularly use the word. They shout it in celebration while praising teammates for a job well done. Count on many African-American players bristling at a suggestion there's something wrong with part of their language and culture, which the NFL is moving to eradicate from the game.

I've struggled with questions surrounding the word. I've taken part in heated arguments with friends, both black and white, about when, where, and by whom the N-word word should be used. The issue is deeply personal for me and many African-Americans.

Ultimately, however, I stopped using the word several years ago - and it has no place in the NFL workplace.

If the NFL were to implement a no-slur rule (it's expected to happen during the annual league meeting in Orlando next month), many league observers likely would argue it's unfair to hold players accountable for what's said during the heat of competition. Playing in the NFL isn't like working in an office or even on a factory assembly line, some would say, so professional athletes should play by different rules. But they'd be wrong.

The Dolphins' report was a wake-up call for the entire league. The deplorable conduct of guard Richie Incognito and his cohorts, offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, in harassing linemate Jonathan Martin and other team employees created a hostile working environment in the Dolphins' locker room. The image-conscious NFL doesn't want that, particularly with Sam poised to become the league's first openly gay player.

In advance of the league's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis last week, the NFL sent a memo to teams reminding them that the league prohibits discrimination against players based on a variety of factors, including sexual orientation. Although the league is framing its potential anti-slur rule around the most racially incendiary word in the English language, it appears that is just a pretext to create a deterrent for harassment against Sam and other openly gay NFL players in the future.

Despite the widespread support Sam received from league owners, officials and players after coming out about his sexual orientation, he potentially could face harassment from the less enlightened in their ranks. For the public, Sam would become the face of the proposed new rule. A great side benefit would be the effect the rule could have on discouraging the use of all slurs, especially the one that is socially unacceptable to say to blacks.

The group formed to promote diversity in hiring in the NFL has been a driving force in trying to end the use of the N-word in the league. John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, is strongly in support of the league's thinking, and "I will be totally shocked if the competition committee does not uphold us on what we're trying to do," Wooten told CBS Sports at the combine.

"We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room," he said. "Secretaries, [public relations] people, whoever, we want it eliminated completely and want it policed everywhere."

Through the years, the true offensive meaning of the word has been obscured by its use in popular culture. Hip-hop artists have glorified it in rap lyrics. Among blacks in all walks of life, the word often is used as a term of endearment and empowerment. That certainly isn't what civil rights leaders of the 1950s and '60s envisioned when they sacrificed, sometimes with their lives, to fight for equal footing in society.

The fact that several misguided African-American Dolphins players were among Incognito's most vocal defenders despite his use of the slur illustrates the cavalier attitude many in the black community have about its use. But for Wooten and others pushing for a no-slur rule, all that matters is that the N-word is considered inappropriate in the workplace. I like their thinking.

Rules evolve to adapt to changes in the game. The NFL is undergoing great change - and it needs an important new rule for these times.

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

Features
AP Video
Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Jury Awards Ventura $1.8M in Defamation Case Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Raw: NH Man Held on $1M in Teen's Kidnapping New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Senate Confirms McDonald As VA Secretary Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Fish Oil Plant Blast Kills One Two Huge Fires Burning in Northern California Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Suspect Dead, Marshals and Cop Wounded in NYC Judge OKs Record-setting $2B Sale of Clipper Arts, Humanities Awards Handed Out at WH
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Upon completion and reopening of Third Street, should the City of Knoxville wait to start the next stage of the Streetscape and Infrastructure project until 2015?

Yes
No
     View Results