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NFL taking on a losing battle with racial slur

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Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The most surprising offseason NFL rule change has nothing to do with the potential elimination of extra point kicks following touchdowns. The head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, John Wooten, which monitors diversity in the NFL, expects the NFL to institute a rule where players would be penalized 15 yards for using the N-word on the field. A second use of the N-word by the same player would mean an ejection. The regulating the use of language by NFL players isn't a new phenomenon given that the NFL and its teams have fined players in the past for using obscene language during live interviews and press conferences but it is different to punish NFL players about on the field language, which is an unanticipated development.

John Wooten's plan is to have the N-word "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." It is very respectable that the NFL wants to limit or eliminate the use of the N-word within the buildings of all 32 NFL teams given that those workplaces mirror "normal" office workplaces. However, the NFL playing field is not the same workplace of most American workplaces. Most workplaces do not allow their employees to try to knock other people down with incredible force and power. In most workplaces, violence isn't allowed but on the NFL playing field not committing violence will cost you a job except in the cases of a couple of positions.

On the NFL football field, players should be allowed to freely use whatever terms they please to each other whether they are insulting or complementary. In the NFL, players can seek vengeance from verbal insults against others with their play or through physical force disguised as a tackle or block if a player gets personal with another player. Regulating the use of a word that generations and generations of people within the black community have been debating is a difficult and insurmountable subject for the NFL even if the subject was originally developed by the educated black men of the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

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