Featuring Trevor Utley, Lou Kessler, Andrew Sanford, & Matt Sieczkiewicz
By Trevor Utley
Every network and cable pundit has weighed in on their thoughts of the crudely dubbed "N-word rule" that will be going into effect next season. For those who have been living under a rock, I'm sorry a rock crushed you to death and nobody has found your body. For those unaware of the NFL's newest policy, starting next year a fifteen yard penalty will be assessed for use of the "n-word" in any of its forms on the field of play. To me it seems to be a knee jerk reaction by commissioner Roger Goodell in response to the season long discourse surrounding the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation in Miami. That isn't to say racist language has any place in professional sports or even society as a whole and any attempt to rid one's surroundings of such language is quite commendable. I just think throwing a flag every time somebody drops a hard N on the field is a slippery slope.
Is this ruling just a start or an end game? Will there be amendments to the rule to include slurs against other races, creeds, and sexual orientations? Will the stating of the penalty have more force coming out of the mouth of white referee Ed Hochuli or black referee Mike Carey? Will there be discretion when determining whether an utterance is a penalty or will there be zero tolerance?
I don't know. When it comes to the NFL and their rules, I never know. Nobody knows though. That is why all the outrage and speculation of how the rule will be enforced is unwarranted until we get to see it in action. I personally just want the league for once to be consistent in their outrage. It is going to be weird seeing a personal foul for language being thrown on somebody wearing a Redskins helmet. It will be sad to have players circumvent the system and continue to use countless other hateful words as long as they don't say the one that'll get them flagged and on the front of every sports page the next day branded as a racist. It is once again the NFL putting a band-aid on a cannon wound. I am not saying that racism is a rampant force that will burn the league to the ground but just banning one word, no matter the stigma or hate surrounding it, will have no effect on the Richie Incognitos and Riley Coopers of the world. It won't and if that is what Roger Goodell thinks he's doing with this decree he is substantially mistaken.
I get it though. Goodell is trying to improve the image of his league. That is the task of any commissioner in any sport. I just think he is going about it the wrong way. Implementing a ban on the "n-word" is like handing in your homework with just your name on it. That is the way it is with a lot of Goodell's policies though. He wants you to know that HE is punishing you but leave you very foggy on the details why. I don't think Roger Goodell is trying to be a censor. If he was trying to be he would make his players play the game in complete silence, a move that wouldn't be fiscally responsible because of all the resources expended on such endeavors as in-game player mics and NFL Films series made entirely about player conversations. He is trying to once again be "ahead of the curve" when in reality he is not. Instead of being a commissioner with foresight, he is easily the most reactionary head honcho in all of American pro sports. In his defense, that is our culture here in the States. Why fix something that isn't broken? The thing is that those things may not be broken but they are bursting at the seems after years of shoddy spot repairs. Take rule changes out of the game entirely and Goodell's legacy comes down to three things: player conduct, concussions, and racism.
With this rule, racism is lumped in with the first piece of his agenda, player conduct. The NBA has a perceived ignominy of being a league of thugs. Baseball's steroid era has made every person from now until the end of time up for conjecture into the validity of their performance on the field. Professional hockey's image has taken a beating from the general public with their labor disputes and lack of diversity. These have all done a number on the popularity and viewership of these leagues all the while, the grand poobah of American professional sports, the NFL grows amid all the murders, failed drug tests, and other general awfulness of a great deal of its members. Every once in a while Roger Goodell needs to prove that he "cares."
I've never been a victim of racial abuse in any form. As a white male in this country in this century I am privileged to avoid such horrible acts in my everyday life. I can't even imagine what even the mildest of racial ignorance can do to one's psyche. I however am not deluded enough to think that banning one word or phrase from a workplace of any kind, even a professional football league, will do a lick of good. The NFL brass, NFLPA, and Roger Goodell need to take a deep look into the mirror and really delve into deeper issues within their organization. If racism is such a problem, the Redskins need to go first and players who demonstrate a history of racial intolerance should not be far behind. If concussions are a problem, make your players safer as best as you can and properly compensate the ones your game has already maimed cerebrally. Instead of fining a guy every time he wears the wrong socks during a game, focus on hashing out in collective bargaining harsher fine scales and other punishments to deal with players who get DUI after DUI, commit domestic violence, or worse but still come back to seven figure paydays as if they just took a week off with a cold. I know all change takes time. I just would rather it be wholesale and wholehearted instead of trying to make the front page of ESPN.com during the off-season.
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PUNTING ON FIRST DOWN