NFL players have always had to worry about their actions on the football field drawing fines and penalties, but now they may have to worry about their words. The NFL may make a move to penalize players for their use of the N Word and other slurs.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance is an organization that monitors diversity in the NFL. The alliance expects the NFL’s completion committee to enact the rule at next month’s owners meeting. Ravens General Manager, Ozzie Newsome, who is a member of the competition committee, said that the issue came up toward the end of last season. The committee did talk about the use of other slurs being held under penalty as well, such as homophobic slurs.
John Wooten is the head of the Pollard Alliance and he believes that the NFL will rule an automatic 15-yard penalty for the first time offenders and an ejection after that. He says he would be shocked if the competition committee does not support the rule change and push for its passage at the owners meeting. The committee will meet next week in Florida to decide what will be presented to the owners at league meetings in March. Wooten goes on to say that the word needs to be policed in ever area of the league.
Former player Harry Carson, who is the Executive Director of the Pollard Alliance, says that a form of the rule already exists and it needs to be exercised. He considers the use of the word to fall underneath the unsportsmanlike conduct rule. Carson supports the action of the NFL to penalize players for their use of the N word and other slurs.
Before the beginning of last season the N word had been a headline for the NFL. In July, before training camp had gotten underway, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper fell into a firestorm over the use of the word at a concert. There was much scrutiny on how Cooper would be received in the Eagles locker room and then eventually on the playing field against opposing teams. After a slew of apologies and some time away from the team, Cooper was accepted back and went on to have his most productive season as a pro.
The Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin controversy more than likely played a part in the Pollard Alliance push to penalize for the N word. Throughout that ordeal the N word and other slurs and derogatory language were highlighted. In November an NFL game official was suspended for one game with no pay after cursing at Redskins player Trent Williams.
The NFL seems to be looking at itself in new and different ways lately and is acting accordingly to clean up their image. The overall NFL workplace has come under review and it has even stretched to the playing field.
Fan reaction has been mixed. Some have questioned whether the rule is a violation of freedom of speech while others think it is a good idea. If the rule gets a green light at the owners meeting the rule could be enacted at the start of next season. If the NFL begins to penalize for the use of the N word and other slurs then teams may have to train their players to watch what they say.
Editorial by Tony Bowers
New York Daily News