HOUSTON (CBS Houston): You read that correctly. The NFL should not adopt the recommendation of the Fritz Pollard Association that would make a specific racial slur used on the field a penalty, but not for the reasons you may think.
John Wooten, the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told CBSSports.com, “We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room.”
The Fritz Pollard Alliance is the group that monitors diversity in the NFL. “This word” that Wooten is referring to is the worst possible racial slur this country knows. Wooten and his group have recommended that a 15 yard penalty be assessed for anyone dropping an N-bomb on the field of play. A second infraction would result in ejection.
It’s a noble cause and rooted in justice, but it’s an injustice to the cause. Here’s why:
If the group seeks to eliminate racial denigrations, why limit the proposal to only one word? There are a plethora of other words and phrases that mean essentially the same thing as an N-bomb, that are just as crude and offensive, yet they would not be penalized? What good is eliminating one racial slur to replace it with others? This just makes zero sense.
If the goal of the group is to promote diversity, shouldn’t that include all ethnicities, races, religions, and – wait for it – sexual preferences? Why limit the scope of your work to one race and one word? Do they believe that all of the other races are less important than African Americans? This is not in any way belittling African Americans or their strife for equality in this country. Its just that true diversity makes us all equal, and doesn’t elevate one group over another for any reason. This rule fails to address this.
Unfortunately, this smacks of political grandstanding. At its heart, use of racial epithets is unsportsmanlike conduct. They already have a penalty for that. In fact, in the NFL Rule Book, it’s Rule 12 (Penalties) Section 3 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct) Article 1 (Prohibited Acts) Subsection B – Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.
By that standard, isn’t use of racial epithets already a penalty? It’s simply a matter of the league making a decision to enforce it.
This is just the argument against the rule on its own merit. This is to say nothing of an underlying problem with the rule, which is that the specific word in question is most often used by African Americans, and often in a social or friendly manner, as opposed to an attacking one.
I have asked several former players of different backgrounds about their experience with that word on the field. None could recall a time when it was used by a non-African American player. Some did state that it was sometimes used in a derogatory manner, but by African American players. Does that make it still a racial slur if its used by African Americans against themselves, or is it just another insult? Who will make that determination? The same officials who consistently get the rule book wrong will now play Thought and Language Police to determine intent? They may as well take the Kobayashi Maru test, because that is a no-win scenario.
The league needs to make a conscious decision on what it deems to be ethical conduct, and eliminate all unethical conduct. There is no logic in ‘cherry picking’ which words or phrases are more offensive than others, eliminate all offensive language and action.
Diversity in the workplace affects all of us, regardless of your background. The NFL should send the right message to all of its constituents, not just some of them.
The NFL should Reject the Fritz Pollard Alliance recommendation, and then expand upon it. Make all intolerance an offense, as it should be. Go beyond the penalty on the field and hit them in the wallet (where it really hurts them) as well, to really make an impression.
This is the NFL’s chance to make a real statement on diversity and tolerance. Their words will be heard loud and clear. No “Soap Box” required.
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate and Creight” with Nate Griffin, Sundays 2-5p on Sportsradio 610 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1