The NFL may adopt a rule that hopes, I suppose, to help the league succeed where the NAACP failed: it wants to penalize players who get caught using “the n-word” during play:

The chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that monitors racial diversity in the NFL, believes the league will soon enact a rule that will penalize a player 15 yards for using the n-word on the field during a game.

John Wooten said he expects the measure to be supported by the NFL Competition Committee during meetings next week in Naples, Fla. If the rule change is endorsed by the committee, it will be presented to owners for a vote.

I kid you not, nothing makes me laugh more than than imagining Ed Hochuli stopping play, jogging to the middle of the field, turning on the microphone, and reporting the offense to spectators, “Offensive use of the n-word by #56 on the defense. Fifteen yard penalty. Automatic first down.” What is going to be the hand signal for this here? Will referees have to become lip readers? Will coaches be able to challenge the play, reminiscent of this glorious sketch by The Message Show?


Listen, I get it. I think I understand the intention behind this. Between Riley Cooper and Richie Incognito, the NFL had a rough year regarding that pernicious little word. And with Michael Sam coming to a locker room near you, I suppose the league wants to convey a message to its players and its fans that they are inclusive and will not tolerate offensive language. But this is silly to me. It’s silly not simply because of the issues it presents regarding its enforcement during games, It’s silly also because the problem isn’t that a league comprised of mostly black players has a problem each Sunday after its employees run around the field calling each other nigga. It’s silly because, like most authorities trying to quell racial issues, the NFL is trying to police (black) behavior rather than using its power to help white folks understand that, contrary to popular belief, whiteness does not give one carte blanche to do and say how one feels.

The NFL, like so many other institutions. should use its resources to inculcate its white players, to teach them that it’s not okay to run around saying “the n word.” Not when they’re reciting rap songs. Not when they can’t get backstage at a concert. Not even when certain black persons give them permission. Teach them the absurdity of the “They do it, why can’t I?” question. Teach them that that question, that such behavior is played, and that “I didn’t know/I didn’t understand” is no longer acceptable in the Google era.

This rule is well-meaning, I suppose, but that’s the best spin I can imagine putting on it. If the NFL wants to really address this “problem” it should attempt something that delves more deeply and does something other than potentially penalize black players. Or perhaps the NFL should focus on fixing its concussion problem instead of pretending to address a “race problem.”

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