The Edmond Sun

Sports

February 26, 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
Sports
  • Blackmon.jpg Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint

    The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
    Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former OSU line coach having impact on Texas staff

    It was quite possibly the biggest coaching coup of the offseason and Oklahoma State was at the wrong end of it — former Cowboy offensive line coach Joe Wickline joining the staff for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns.
    “It’s always good when you go hire staff and you look at just getting the right people within your program. And, a lot of times, guys know a lot of Xs and Os, but it’s all just about developing a player,” said Strong, Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. “Joe and I, we’ve coached together at two different places. But just with him being within his conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset.”

    July 22, 2014

  • spts-ESF Max McGreevy state champ.jpg Santa Fe alum McGreevy makes U.S. Amateur

    OU’s Max McGreevy, an Edmond Santa Fe graduate, and University of Tulsa’s Logan McCracken qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) prestigious annual event featuring the world’s finest amateur golfers. This year’s championship will be held at the venerable Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) in Johns Creek, Aug. 9-17.

    Qualifying Players
    Max McGreevy, Edmond 67-65—132
    Logan McCracken, Oklahoma City 69-66—135

    Alternates
    1st Alt. Garrison Mendoza, Clinton 69-71—140
    2nd Alt. Thomas Johnson, Norman 71-69—140

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson 17 tee.jpg Gibson closes British Open with a 78, 3 birdies in final 6 holes

    Even if he didn’t post the score he wanted, Rhein Gibson left Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Sunday knowing he at least finished strong.
    Gibson’s final-round 6-over-par 78 at the British Open looks a lot better when one considers he birdied three of his final six holes. The Oklahoma Christian alum finished his first major championship at 10-over-par 298 — in 72nd place overall — earning himself a paycheck of $20,840.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OGA Reid mug.jpg Edmond’s Reid comes back to win Senior Stroke Play

    James Reid, of Edmond, rallied to win the OGA’s Senior Stroke Play Championship with a smoking 67 July 15 at the Trails Country Club in Norman. Edmond’s Jon Valuck tied for fifth place.
    In the pro series, Cameron Meyers of Edmond shot 68-70 for the top prize while Andrew Green of Edmond finished third.

    Oklahoma Golf Association
    Senior Stroke Play Championship
    July 14-15
    The Trails Golf Club
    Final Results

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-AF Will Conant kicker.jpg Air Force kicker Conant named to Groza Award watch list

    Air Force senior Will Conant, an Edmond Memorial graduate, is one of 30 players nationwide to be named to the 2014 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award watch list, as announced by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
    Conant hit 32-of-33 PATs and 11-of-13 field-goal attempts last season. He ranked third in the conference in field-goal percentage with an 84.6 mark that is the fourth-best in school history and best since Joey Ashcroft hit 88.8 percent (16-18) in 2002.
    Conant is one of two kickers in Air Force history to hit three times from 50-plus yards in a season. He hit three 52-yard kicks last season (versus Colgate, San Diego State, New Mexico), matching Ryan Harrison’s three 50-plus field goals in 2007. Conant’s three 50-plus field goals already rank him third in school history in career 50-yard field goals.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson British Open.jpg OC alum Gibson holes pressure putt on 18, makes cut at British Open

    It was the biggest putt of Rhein Gibson’s life — which is saying something for a guy who once shot a world-record 55 — and the Oklahoma Christian alum and Edmond resident responded the way he has so many times before.
    A four-time NAIA All-American while at Oklahoma Christian University, Gibson made the 15-footer for a birdie on No. 18 as darkness descended at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, capping a 2-over-par 74 and allowing him to make the cut in the world’s most prestigious tournament.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-Senior Open Josh Cook hands on hips.jpg ‘Cook’-ing up a championship golf course

    When the practice rounds began at the U.S. Senior Open July 7, the ramblings were almost non-stop.
    From the players who live at the course to professional golfers from across the ocean and diverse parts of the globe, the consensus was that Oak Tree National was in tremendous shape and the players were keyed up to compete on it.
    “The golf course is fantastic,” Oak Tree resident Bob Tway said on the first day of competition July 10. “It’s hard, but it’s fantastic.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OPINION: Posturing, predictions fly as SEC turns to a new season

    Little news is truly made at the Southeastern Conference's media days, where players and coaches predict, insinuate and deflect in advance of this fall's college football season.
     

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OPINION: James bears the weight of Cleveland's championship dreams

    Can LeBron James change Cleveland sports history? Overcoming this city's tortured curse could prove impossible - even for the world's best basketball player.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

Photos