Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is no stranger to controversy, in fact he seems to seek it out and revel in the accompanying spotlight. Earlier this year Sherman caused a stir when he wrote about playing with a concussion. Now the dreaded lock-down corner is taking on the English language’s most infamous word.
The NFL’s competition committee is pondering whether to make it a flaggable offense to use the N word while on the football field. In his monday morning quarterback column, Peter King predicted that the league will take one of three routes regarding the slur:
1. The Competition Committee will urge that it be a point of emphasis for officials this year. When officials hear it, they would admonish players about it and do nothing else.
2. The committee will urge that offending players be warned if the word is used on the field during games. After a warning, a player with a second use could be penalized for using it, at the discretion of the officiating crew. I say “could be,” because the league could give officiating crews the option of throwing a flag, depending on the circumstances.
3. Nothing will change. Players will be allowed to use the word at will.
King went on to interview three black NFL players about the idea. Two were opposed to it, the other liked it but said it would be hard to enforce. One of the players opposed to the idea was Richard Sherman, who called the notion atrocious and possibly even racist:
“It’s an atrocious idea, It’s almost racist, to me. It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”
Sherman has a fair point. If the NFL is going to ban racist language why just single out one specific word? Of course it is probably the most commonly used one on the field – over two thirds of the players on NFL teams are African American.
It means different things to different people. In polite society it’s considered an awful thing to use the N word, but many African Americans have re-appropriated it. Restricting players from using it on the field may be considered a violation of the first amendment. Whether it is used with a friendly connotation or as an insult it’s a tricky game attemping to ban any kind of language.
What say you, Seahaws fans? Should the NFL ban the N word, or leave it alone as the Shermanator says?