CBS Sports is reporting that the National Football League is considering making the use of a racial slur against your opponent a 15 yard penalty.
John Wooten, the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance told CBS that he wants to eradicate the N-word entirely from the league — “policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room.”
Wooten spoke about his desire to eradicate the word completely from NFL workplaces at the Fritz Pollard event during the combine, wanting it to be fineable and policed throughout team facilities, and received a standing ovation according to those in attendance. Wooten said he will continue being vigilant about this with the NFL office and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I will be totally shocked if the competition committee does not uphold us on what we’re trying to do,” Wooten said. “We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room. Secretaries, PR people, whoever, we want it eliminated completely and want it policed everywhere.”
The NFL had no comment, but league sources did confirm that the idea of “respect” among teammates is a priority. The league is studying major changes to workplace policies in the wake of the Wells report, and Goodell and Troy Vincent from the league office have already met with 35 players to discuss issues of workplace conduct.
Wooten said the competition committee will formally decide whether or not to support his measure at the meeting in March, and then present it to owners. Wooten is “extremely hopeful” it will pass.
“I think they’re going to do what needs to be done here,” he said. “There is too much disrespect in the game.”
It’s commendable that the league is looking seriously at this issue. While the use of the N-word on the field has been a psychological weapon for decades — trying to rile an opponent the same way he might allude to his wife’s supposed infidelity in order to incite the player to do something stupid — the league might also consider cleaning up the game in other areas.
Since January of 2000, there have been 685 felony arrests of NFL players. This is an epidemic of lawlessness that the league has addressed only sporadically. Then there is the shocking number of NFL players who fathered numerous children by different mothers out of wedlock. This is an issue that the NFL has not addressed publicly and appears to want to keep a secret.
Rid the game of the N-word? Absolutely. But tolerating a culture that has players thinking themselves above the law and beyond common standards of moral behavior makes language policing meaningless.