A Stones Throw 3-27-14


I have never been a fan of the Washington Redskins.

At the same time, I have to admit I have felt the claims that the “Redskins” name is insensitive at best and an abusive racial slur at worst were more for publicity than commitment.

I applauded the National Football League for standing behind Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder when he has refused to consider changing the team name. Snyder, who I believe is one of the most meddlesome NFL owners, says the term “Redskins” is not racist. Instead, he claims the team name honors Native Americans.

I didn’t quite agree with Snyder’s thinking, but I did agree with him that the team name has been accepted for decades.

So, what makes it different today?

Actually, the NFL – the same NFL that has given full support to Dan Snyder’s intent to keep the Redskins name – announced it was contemplating adding a rule that made it a 15-yard penalty whenever a player used the ‘N’ word during a game.

According to reports, consideration for this rule and its subsequent penalty is a result of the findings of the investigation concerning the bullying/harassment problems in the Miami Dolphins locker room – the bullying that resulted in Jonathan Martin leaving the team and Richie Incognito being suspended.

The investigation showed the ‘N’ word was prevalent and was a cause of some of the discomfort in the locker room.

And, it not only carries over to action on the field, it is even more prevalent there. Thus, to put a stop to racial slurs both on and off the field, the thought is to penalize those who use the ‘N’ word.

I find it interesting that every publication I have seen and every talking head I have listened to use the term “the ‘N’ word as if full disclosure of the word would cause thunder and lightning.

Thus, it seems that the ‘N’ word will join the ‘F’ word as the two one-letter words that are used the most in publications and discussions while the full words are used in real life.

And, I am sure it is the actual word that would be penalized – not the one-letter word.

Interestingly, with the announcement that the NFL was planning to penalize a player who uses the ‘N’ word, came a thunderstorm of divergent thoughts. There were many athletes and other celebrities – many, if not most, of them being African American – who claim the ‘N’ word is used by African-Americans as much, if not more, than is used by non-African Americans.

National Football League players throughout the league claimed it would be wrong to penalize someone for using the ‘N’ word during the heat of the game.

Still others questioned if there were other racial slurs that should be included if a penalty was going to be assessed for using the ‘N’ word.

Good question.

In fact, if you are going to regulate and penalize for the use of words that are offensive to different races, do you also regulate and penalize for the use of words that are offensive to others? For instance, should words like “fatso” or “stupid” be penalized? How about “Fag” or “Homo?”

Or should they be added to the one-letter club?

(This might be difficult since there is already an ‘N’ one-letter word.)

I can see both the argument against trying to eliminate the ‘N’ word during the heat of an NFL football game and the argument that says if one racial slur is to be penalized, all racial slurs should be penalized.

Still, the best question – the one that totally changed my thinking – came from an article that asked how the NFL could penalize a player for using a racial slur while supporting a team owner’s intent to keep the Washington Redskins name.

My first thought was “here we go again.”

But not for long.

The question this writer asked was simple: Would Dan Snyder – or anyone else – address a Native American working in the accounting office simply as “Redskin?”

Good question.

Easy answer.

I don’t think any sensible person would address a Native American simply as “Redskin” any more than a sensible person would address an African American using the ‘N’ word.

So, perhaps we now have the ‘R’ word.

Then maybe we can cheer against the Washington ‘R’s’

At least that would recognize the racial slur that it is.

The bottom line is that I do not think there is any way to legislate what is said during the emotional heat of a football game. Yet, there are already rules in place that call for a penalty if a racial slur or the ‘N’ word is directed toward an official.

Officials already have a difficult job. They already make questionable calls that affect several games each year. To try to legislate on-field game language in a fair and consistent way would be difficult – if not impossible.

Fortunately, it seems that the NFL may have come to the same conclusion.

The latest news out of the current NFL owners meeting indicates the NFL will not pursue this idea – at least not for the upcoming season.

I think this is great.

This means most 2014 NFL games will be determined by the play on the field. Now officials can concentrate on already difficult rules and then try to apply them fairly and consistently.

At the same time, the NFL can concentrate on other ways to eliminate the use of racial slurs both on the field and in the locker room.

And, if the NFL really wants to make a statement against the use of racial slurs – it will require Daniel Snyder to change the name of the Washington Redskins. Until that happens, the NFL is being hypocritical when it calls for the elimination of the ‘N’ word.

– Mike Cooney