The power of language, especially racial slurs, has been a hot topic for the NFL over the last few years, and one group hopes to eradicate the most despised of slurs from the playing field.
The Fritz-Pollard Alliance, a group charged with monitoring diversity in the NFL, has called for the league to impose a 15-yard penalty on any player caught using the N-word during a game. The league could vote to enact the ban as early as March during the owners meetings.
The first offense on the field could be an automatic 15-yard penalty, with a second offense resulting in an ejection.
How players treat each other on and off the field, especially in the locker room, has gained serious traction in and around NFL circles in the wake of the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito scandal in Miami.
A phonebook worth of text messages released to the public following the Dolphins internal investigation revealed some of the lewd and crude language the offensive linemen exchanged over the course of a year, with Martin later stating he felt bullied or compelled to reciprocate for fear of being ostracized by the rest of the team.
There was also the major controversy surrounding Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, and his use of the N-word during a concert last June. A video of Cooper uttering the slur went viral and eventually led to his apology to fans and the entire Eagles organization, along with mandatory counseling sessions. However, it took quite some time for the fervor to die down.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is a member of the NFL’s competition committee, and he stated during last weekend’s Combine that the league is considering a ban on the N-word.
“We did talk about it I’m sure you saw the Fritz Pollard Alliance came out very strong with a message that the league needs to do something about the language on the field,” Newsome said according to NFL.com. “We did discuss it the past three days.”
There has been no real traction on the possible ban just yet, as the committee looks to thoroughly research the issue.
"With any rule that we put into play we have to look at it from A to Z and find out what are the unintended consequences as well as the consequences,” Newsome said. "I don't want to get in front of what the competition committee talked about the past three days, but we did talk about race and gender.”
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark has publicly questioned how the league will institute a ban as well, and also suggested the source of the problem doesn’t stem from issues between white and black players.
"I think it's going to be really tough to legislate this rule, to find a way to penalize everyone who uses this word," Clark said during a segment with ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.” "And it's not going to be white players using it toward black players. Most of the time you hear it, it's black players using the word."