NFL’s Noble Attempt to Ban the N-Word Will Net Nothing—The Monday Morning Realist


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Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance before the 2013 NFC Championship football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since bursting onto the scene as NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell has always tried to establish himself as the “new sheriff in town”. He’s been a tough-as-nails boss when it comes to issues such as player conduct, penalties, and other issues.

But, the Commish could very well be fighting a battle that he knows he cannot win.

The NFL recently announced its intentions on penalizing players (and teams, by proxy) for usage of the “n-word”. 15 yard penalties will be assessed if an official overhears one player dropping an n-bomb.

For example, Realists, let’s say that ESPN’s Michael Wilbon was an NFL player. This was a topic that came up a few days ago on an episode of Pardon the Interruption. Wilbon was incensed that a league full of a white owners and a white commissioner wanted to police what a league full of, predominantly, young black men wanted to say. Wilbon was so fired up that he even dropped the “n-bomb” on PTI.

Thankfully, because of this thing called tape delay, it was bleeped out, but we get the point. Hypothetically, if Wilbon was playing for his beloved Chicago Bears as a defensive lineman, and he used that word, that’s a fifteen yard flag on the Monsters of the Midway.

This Realist understands the point trying to be made by Goodell. The n-word does have a checkered past in black history. During periods of slavery and Jim Crow laws, white plantation owners used this word to demean black slaves. But, of course, nowadays it almost is a term of endearment among young blacks of this generation.

Goodell, unfortunately, is too close to the building that houses the NFL on Park Avenue to see the rest of the Manhattan skyline.

The Commissioner of the NFL cannot really believe that it will be feasible for NFL officials to police the SPEECH of players, let alone their conduct. NFL referees already have to pay so much attention to detail given how complicated a single NFL play is. But, the idea of Goodell having referees listen out to hear if a player is shouting after a big play, “Yeah, n***a! That’s what I’m talking about, n***a!”?

Realists, we thought this guy’s fetishes for a team in London and an 18 game schedule were laughable. This one is a late night comedy bit.

This is where television does not do the NFL justice, and where you sometimes wish games were televised with no announcers or color commentators on HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax. Those channels are uncensored—much like a good bit of the language that can be heard within ear-shout of an NFL gridiron.

If we are beginning to police the language of what is said during NFL games, players wouldn’t be allowed to speak during games. When these NFL players are in the heat of battle, and likely in the locker room as well (read: Richie Incognito), their language is not exactly that of what would be spoken on Nick Junior.

Who decided to make Roger Goodell the sports version of Big Brother? Once again, this is the kind of thing that happens when you have people (the NFL’s 32 owners) who likely have never played a down of their lives in competitive sports make decisions for those busting their butts for a living and playing competitive sports.

But, considering the majority of NFL owners are businessmen and only know how to use their teams as ATMs for their outside business interests, of course THEY would dream up of a nefarious scheme such as this. Realists, we get a different vibe from players when they are asked.

Richard Sherman says that he thinks this is a mistake on the part of the NFL. He’s a player constantly in the heat of battle, and the mind should tell a person that players will say things in the heat of battle with their teammates that they will not always say…in front of their kids.

Anyone who has played competitive sports will know this. Those who haven’t—such as the (likely) majority of NFL owners—do not.

The league’s owners have one prime directive—that’s to make money. That fact alone also exposes this faux policing of the N-word as a desperate attempt for positive PR.

Why is the NFL all of a sudden being proactive on trying to exile the n-word from its ranks, when it still allows for a team name to be called “Redskins”? If anything, “Redskin” is to Native Americans what the n-word (particularly the version with the “er”) is to African Americans, again, which comprises the majority of the league’s talent.

Unfortunately, minorities are not significantly represented among the league’s ownership fraternity or coaching staffs—including blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or…women.

This topic was brought up on Around the Horn on ESPN. Bomani Jones is a regular panelist on that show. Jones opined that since the n-word is bad, but “Redskins” is okay, that racial slurs in the league are only fine when they can be monetized.


Dan Snyder, Roger Goodell and Park Avenue make money off “Redskins”. There’s (fortunately) no team in the league known as the “n-word”s and will never be one. So, the league will go all in on trying to get a racial slur out of the game that it won’t (and can’t) make a buck off of.

But, go ahead and try, NFL. Go ahead. Start by taking this “all or nothing” approach against the n-word. This Realist thinks it needs to be addressed, but sicking a conga line of referees to police language is over the top and unfeasible.

Dare we say, it is un-Realist-ic.

What the league will also do during this upcoming season is that it will say that this is actually successful because of an amount of penalties that they have assessed against players that used the n-word on the field.

Look out for when this happens in a press conference, Realists. It will be the part where we laugh uncontrollably—and probably shout expletives ourselves.

You know, just like any competitive field of play with highly competitive athletes.