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What 12 Years a Slave and the NFL have in common

On the heels of 12 Years a Slave winning the Oscar for Best Picture, the NFL is thinking of penalizing the use of the N-word and other racial slurs on the field. Some, namely Richard Sherman, are calling the penalty itself racist, as it is a word commonly used in the black community. Some call the word a “term of endearment,” and others call it highly offensive.

Richard Sherman has spoken out about the NFL's new rule of banning slurs on the field
Photo by Michael N. Todaro

It’s all in the context of how the “curse” is used. The African American Registry says: “The word, ni--er, carries with it much of the hatred and disgust directed toward Black Africans and African Americans. Historically, ni--er defined, limited, made fun of, and ridiculed all Blacks.” The NFL is saying it’s disrespectful to history, while some players are saying that banning the word is invading culture. The new rule would include a 15 yard penalty for using the word on the field.

SB Nation says, “The league has undertaken greater efforts to promote a more tolerant workplace in the wake of several incidents, including teams asking players at last year's Combine about their sexual orientation.”
Ozzie Newsome, General manager of the Baltimore Ravens added, "With any rule we put into play, we have to look at it A-Z and what are the unintended consequences as well as the consequences. But as it was stated in our meeting, there are mics everywhere. If something's being said, it's captured somewhere. It would be an opportunity to get it verified if we had to." The contrast between this new sports issue and the best film of 2013 is startling in some ways.

12 Years a Slave tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free American man who is taken into slavery in 1842. Marcio De Abreu of Indie Wire relates the use of the N- word in the film, “In 12 Years a Slave the word “nigger” symbolizes a subhuman being, a creature incapable of self-rule, doomed to live under the yoke of a master, and whose presence in America represented a necessary and convenient burden with which white folks had to cope.” The points made in 12 Years certainly bring the issue at hand back to light.

If we look at the way the world is spinning, and the need for more acceptance and more compassion, NFL owners seem to be trying to make a more accepting work environment for all. But is the NFL simply targeting blacks? Has the N-word evolved since the 1800’s, or does it carry just as much hate as it once did? The NFL is planning to ban all slurs on the field, especially on the eve of accepting openly gay players. This one particular word seems to carry to most debate. Jason Reid of The Washington Post sums it up: “Rules evolve to adapt to changes in the game. The NFL is undergoing great change — and it needs an important new rule for these times.”
Do you agree with the NFL banning slurs and offensive language?

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