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DAVE OWENS: Color Blind NFL's N-Word Ban Would Be Shortsighted

Dave Owens, Special to The Informer | 3/8/2014, 11:45 a.m.
So the NFL is considering penalizing players 15 yards for using the N-word during games. If it happens more than ...

So the NFL is considering penalizing players 15 yards for using the N-word during games. If it happens more than once, a player gets ejected.

My take on this: Dumb rule!! I seriously hope the powers that be back off this.

Look, I know the historical context of the word and the malicious nature in which it can be used. But we're not talking about that here. For the most part we're talking about scenarios where players might spew the word in slang form, and this is where the discussion gets cloudy and, for some, uncomfortable.

There's a difference between using the N-word, or any other slur for that matter, in a mean-spirited way, versus using it in slang terms around people who know the context in which you're using it. You may not like that, but it's fact. And quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of people acting as if we as a society can't ascertain the difference.

When Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was caught on camera angrily spewing the N-word, he meant it in a vicious, spiteful way. He paid for it and he should have. But if a group of black kids are talking amongst themselves and using the N-word in slang, it's a safe bet they're not using it in its historical context. It's just slang.

People will say you can't have it both ways. I say yes, I can, because I'm a rational adult. Rational adults should be able to discern hate speech from slang any day of the week. If you can't, check yourself. Moreso, those same adults should be able to educate their kids on the difference between the N-word used during the civil rights struggle and the N-word used in the latest rap song.

I can understand a penalty for an isolated incident (i.e., fight, argument) where it's clear hate speech is in play, but this generalized rule seems like NFL grandstanding — the almighty league standing up against racist language for the good of all mankind. Give me a break! Is the league going to penalize players for using homophobic or gender-based slurs as well?

If the NFL is in the mood to solve a problem, they might want to start with the paucity of minority head coaches amongst its ranks.