NFL proposes ban on controversial slang

Ryan Woerner
Staff Writer

For any NFL hopefuls reading this article, you’ve got some work to do. Hit the gym and perfect your footwork. Increase your speed, your agility and your hand-eye coordination. And, above all else, clean up that potty mouth.

The NFL has recently bounced around the idea of banning the n-word on-field during games beginning next season. The rule, if passed, would call for a 15-yard penalty if the n-word is used in game.

Already the proposed rule has ushered in controversy. Some claim the rule is long overdue and a step in the right direction.

NFL ban on n-word“It wouldn’t please everyone, but the proposed penalty for using the N-word would certainly be a positive step for the NFL,” said Jason Whitlock of ESPN.

A step in the right direction, maybe, but enforceable and sensible, maybe not.

If this rule does indeed take effect this upcoming NFL season, the discretion of calling the penalty will fall into the laps of NFL referees. Keep in mind, at any given time there are 22 grown men on a football field. Twenty-two grown men who, come time to determine who committed the penalty, may all sound strikingly similar. Every flag becomes a battle of he said she said.

Determining who said the racial slur in question also begs the question of whether or not it really matters who said it. Does it matter if one black athlete says it to his teammate? What if it is not meant as derogatory or racial at all? The n-word does not necessarily carry the same connotation as it has in the past.

“I use the n-word,” said former NBA legend Charles Barkley. “I’m going to continue to use the n-word with my black friends, with my white friends. They are my friends.”

Barkley did go on to claim in the February 2013 interview with ESPN that it is not up to white people (or white sportswriters for collegiate newspapers, for that matter) to determine who can and who cannot use the word. As a white sportswriter for a collegiate newspaper, take this article as you will.

So in this case, who determines when the word is used offensively? On top of that, and more importantly, why stop at the n-word?

“It’s an atrocious idea,” said Richard Sherman of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. “It’s almost racist to me. It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”

Sherman brings a valid point. If the n-word carries a 15 yard penalty, even when used in a non-offensive manner, even when used towards a teammate, what comes next? Homophobic slurs would logically carry an equally harsh penalty when uttered (shouted) on field.

The argument boils down to what is and what is not considered to be offensive. Putting bans on other racial or homophobic slurs would seem to make sense, but where is the line drawn? If “f****t” is deemed offensive, what about “gay” or “homo”? Issues like this are still in the consideration phase for the NFL.

One man who has openly expressed his support for the ban of the slur on field is Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. Who saw that one coming?

Cooper, who was recorded earning himself a 15 yard penalty at a Kenny Chesney concert last summer said “I think its a good rule.”

To me, it seems like this rule might be coming into effect a few decades too late. The n-word is used regularly by African-Americans in non-derogatory contexts to the point that hearing it tossed around in music, in hallways and on the football field no longer warrants a head turn.

NFL officials are essentially being asked to police language on field during games, keeping raunchy adults from uttering certain hurtful words, while giving others the “OK”. They must do this while simultaneously watching the game closely enough to turn a flinch from the right guard into a false start.

While the idea behind banning the n-word from the game is honorable at heart, the execution is flawed. Many players, mostly African-American, have spoken out against the proposed ban. At this point in time, they’ve got this cracker on their side.