Reading Time: 2 minutes

Proposed rule against racial language is ignorant and hypocritical

Illustration by Tina Wallace

The NFL is thinking of proposing a rule that would impose a 15-yard penalty against a team when one of their players uses a racial term in the field of play. Specifically, the rule would target players who uses the n-word.

While the attempt to curb racial language is admirable, it is ultimately a misguided effort that doesn’t address deeper discriminatory issues within the league.

The first problem is that the NFL only wants to eliminate one particular term. Why not penalize all offensive language from the field of play? With Michael Sam soon to be the first openly gay player in the league, one must question why the NFL also does not target homophobic language, along with any other slur targeted at a specific group.

The second issue is that the n-word is part of the culture inside locker rooms. What if some players, regardless of the colour of their skin, don’t use it in a derogatory way but as a term of endearment after a teammate makes a big play? I’m not saying I approve of this language, but one of the things we learned from the Miami Dolphins fiasco, in which Richie Incognito was reported to have harassed teammate Jonathan Martin, is that Incognito was considered an “honorary brother” by some of his black teammates and used the n-word freely in the locker room without any repercussion. Are we to believe Miami is the only team in which a white player had such “privilege”?

We must also realize the hypocrisy of the NFL proposing the rule at all. There are 32 teams in the NFL, none of which are controlled by a black owner. Roger Goodell, the commissioner, is also white. How is allowing old, rich white men to dictate how black players interact with each other fixing racial issues? Isn’t this only perpetuating larger issues?

The n-word is a big part of the way black people interact, for better or for worse, so why should they let anyone penalize their team for what they say to each other?

The final issue with the rule is that last time I checked there is an NFL team in Washington with a name that is a racial slur towards native peoples. How can the NFL be anything but hypocritical if they are willing to penalize players for their language, while marketing one of their franchises under an equally offensive term?

If the NFL truly wants to eliminate discrimination from the field and the locker room, it still has a long way to go. Penalizing players in a game for their language to teammates, not in anger at the opposition or to a referee, sets a dangerous and hypocritical precedent for a league mired in controversy. The league should look at cleaning up its own act before it decides what its players should and shouldn’t say.