When last we revisited this issue, basketball ex-greats Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal were defending the use of the reddest of “red line” words, ni…—no, I can’t.
It rhymes with “trigger”:
BARKLEY: I’m a black man. I use the N-word. I’m going to continue to use the N-word with my black friends, with my white friends. They are my friends. What I do with my black friends is not up to white America to dictate to me what’s appropriate and inappropriate. What we say in the locker room, the language we use sometime(s) it’s homophobic, sometime(s) it’s sexist, and a lot of times it’s racist. White America don’t get to dictate how me and Shaq talk to each other. And they have been trying to infiltrate (sic) themselves saying, “Well, you guys use it. It’s in rap music.” No, no, no, no, no. That’s not the same.
O’NEAL: Chuck makes a good point. In the Ebonic culture we have programmed ourselves to use the word positive. We have G14 classification to stay it to each other. But when we say it to each other, believe it or not, it’s in the positive sense.
The NBA ain’t the NFL:
The NFL would be asking an awful lot of its officials this season by making it a point of emphasis for them to throw a 15-yard flag upon hearing one player calling another the N-word.
Of course, as former Giants linebacker Carl Banks said, “If the word disappeared from the world’s vernacular, I wouldn’t miss it one bit.”
It’s apparently too much to ask for common decency to take over during the course of a heated violent game in which reprehensible physical behavior — going after knees, eye-gouging, spitting, helmet hits — can bring the worst out of somebody’s mouth.
Banks said if the NFL is going to implement change, then 15 yards is not enough.
“If you are going to take a position on it, eject the player,” he said Monday. “Don’t penalize the other players on the field. Just throw them out of the game. Don’t hold everyone responsible for what comes out of an idiot’s mouth. Just remove him from the game and be done with it.”
Well, not everyone agrees:
[MICHAEL] WILBON: People can be upset with me if they want. I, like a whole lot of people, use the N-word all day every day my whole life. Publicly I wouldn’t do that, but I have no issue with it. I have a problem with — and excuse me, here — white people framing the discussion for the use of the N-word. They better not sit there like plantation owners and tell black people how to use the language that was forced on us!
The NFL is a plantation, or close enough. The punishments are meted out as fines, not lashings, but the white commissioner, appointed by the white owners, very much does tell the black people in the league (perhaps as high as 70%) how to use language. And how to dress (on-field). And where and when to hit people it is their job to hit. And on and on.
And the same Michael Wilbon is still not happy:
Jason Whitlock makes the interesting point that the n-word hasn’t changed its power to hurt; it’s just been adopted by the very people it was meant to injure. Now they use it to injure themselves (just as they use guns to shoot themselves—and ob-gyns to abort themselves).
I thought I needed to know more about the subject, so I went into the bathroom, shoved a towel under the door, turned the water on high and whispered the word to myself. I didn’t like it. I had to wash my own mouth out with soap.
I’m with Carl Banks and other black athletes: if the word disappeared, I wouldn’t miss it. But there’s some talk about how it would be legislated on the field. What if one player says to a teammate, “Nice tackle, n-word!” Do they throw a flag? If not, what if the speaker were white? What if the speaker were black, but the tackler were white? What if they both were white?
If referees are supposed to judge intent, then aren’t we asking the black players who use the word to say it with a smile? And doesn’t that bring up its own racist scenarios? The plantation owners in the NFL already regulate dancing on the field (after touchdowns or sacks); now we’re going to measure the wattage of their smiles?
Good luck with that.