NFL misinformed, naive for considering penalty against N word

by Max Carter

Yet another controversial rule change in the NFL has been spotted on the horizon. The league announced last week that it is considering a 15-yard penalty for use of the N word on the field.

Sixty-five percent of players on 2009 opening day rosters were of African-American or “mixed-race” backgrounds, according to To nobody’s surprise, this proposal has stirred up much controversy. One word, clearly associated with black culture, to be highlighted and banned over all other profanity. I have to agree with Richard Sherman, the All-Pro Cornerback and Super Bowl Champion for the Seattle Seahawks.

Sherman, who is never short for words, spoke to The Monday Morning Quarterback about the potential implementation.

“It’s an atrocious idea. It’s almost racist to me,” Sherman said in The Monday Morning Quarterback. “It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”

Sherman–who has a masters degree in communication from Stanford University–has an excellent point, and I share his feelings on the topic. I don’t think that the NFL realizes just exactly what it would be saying by carrying on with the rule change. Sherman’s statement that it is “almost racist” is unfortunately all too true.

Let me be clear, I do not use the N word. However, anybody can understand that it is all about context. The N word is most frequently used by a black community with deep history and culture, and has been for years. In that context, the term is rarely derogatory, and is simply a friendly and sometimes a brotherly-naming device. Most of the time in today’s world, there is a common misconception that the word is an insult; that is just not the case.

If used with negative intention, yes, it can be extremely insulting and offensive. But for the NFL to label the word as innately terrible by putting a penalty on it is not only misinformed and naive, but also quite offensive in itself.

Whitworth junior Anthony Fullman, a wide receiver on the football team, feels that too much attention is given to helping the black community in today’s world.

“Society is so focused on making sure they aren’t offensive, but in reality it is offensive that they continue discussion and have controversies over blacks versus whites,” Fullman said. “The best thing to do is to take focus off helping the black community and instead move forward and learn from the past.”

It is an interesting conversation to say the least, and says a lot about the state of racial equality in our society today. This is a word that if used in the right context and company, is nothing but a cultural name of sorts. The fact that our society is shining a spotlight on this situation is not only disappointing, but sadly concerning.

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