Last fall, the NFL became embroiled in a public bullying controversy. The league’s news made the jump from ESPN to CNN, and for a few weeks, the product on the field was overshadowed by the culture off the field.
The Dolphins locker room, a haven for bullies and racists (the media said), plagued the league’s image. The once-gleaming NFL shield was fractured as it defended football’s culture from accusations of barbarism.
A proposed rule banning the use of the n-word in games (which was ultimately taken off the table last week) was meant to “save” the league’s image, but a closer look shows that the rule would have unevenly addressed other elements of racism in professional football – a league that uses its athleticism to distract paying customers from its intolerance.
NFL executives say the league “isn’t ready” for Michael Sam, a football player hoping to become the league’s first publicly gay figure – homosexuality is too problematic for the dynamics of a locker room.
Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins franchise, calls his racially charged team name a “badge of honor” that would “never” be changed. Historical subjugation of Native Americans is a sign of “strength, courage, pride and respect,” he said.
And the NFL’s governing board, composed of a white commissioner and white majority owners, wants to wield its white-paternalistic power to tell its league of mostly black players what words they can’t say because it offends them.
The NFL’s moralizing effort is merely self-serving. Its exclusive focus on the n-word implicitly condones other racial epithets and discriminatory language that falls outside the parameters of the new rule.
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman called the proposed rule “almost racist.” Maybe he’s right – because what the NFL’s rule doesn’t say speaks much louder than what it actually does.
Corey Janson is a senior majoring in psychology and political science.