Football is No Place for Political Correctness
These are the wilderness months for me as far as sports goes. The dark period just after football ends and before the bright lights of baseball guides us into the summer months. My father instilled in me my love of baseball, while my affinity for the gridiron came from two older brothers who would rush home after church, take off their Sunday best and relax in front of our old Zenith and watch the games until darkness. I cannot overstate enough the beauty and importance of sports in our culture. Nowhere else can so many different types of people come together, share some brews and a few burgers and for, at least the length of a game, disregard race, social standing, and even political and religious differences to root for the same goal; the absolute defeat of the opposing team.
It’s a sign of the times when even a sporting event can cause those who worship at the altar of political correctness to demand that it fit into their tiny world view. The Washington Redskins became a target for the activist crowd, demanding a team that’s been around in one form or another since 1932 change its name because there are a few who were offended by it. Even the usually levelheaded Charles Krauthammer said in his Washington Post column that he thinks the name should be changed because, “Words don’t stand still. They evolve.” If that’s true than there’s a stronger case that the name had a more derogatory meaning 80 years ago when the term ‘Redskin’ was actually associated with American Indians. Today, it’s a term relegated to old westerns, and most reasonable people don’t relate the name to the American Indian when the Redskins football team marches onto the field.
Now the NFL, reeling from the fallout of the concussion controversy, is trying to head off another by considering penalizing the use of certain slurs used by players on the field. Hmm, now how’s this supposed work, exactly? Players already get penalized for excessive celebrations (which by the way I think is an absurd reason to penalize a player). Now, with all that happens in the game, the refsare supposed to monitor speech too? Will they mic each uniform so the official can go watch the replay and make sure he heard the offending word? Nonsense. There’s nothing new about athletes playfully calling each other names in the locker room and on the field. This happens within groups of friends everywhere, and I’m sure black players in football, basketball, and baseball have used a certain slur towards one another and the sky hasn’t fallen, and no one has burst into flames. It is just a word after all -- granted, one with a terrible past, but still, just a word.
And we have given this word an immense amount of power over us; it’s like our kryptonite. The cloaked way in which we call it the ‘N’ word, instead of just saying it outright, as if just speaking it can cause paralysis, death or worse. I understand that it’s uncomfortable for some to hear, but I think that we should be able to choose how we speak with one another in the context of our friendships. But it’s a complicated issue, especially when we hear blacks use it to address one another, and even if a white person says it in a casual manner the world stops like that old E.F. Hutton commercial, where his name is mentioned and the room grows so silent you could hear a pin drop. When a word is acceptable for one group to use and not another, this only adds to the chaos. Now the NFL in its infinite ‘wisdom’ increased the turmoil surrounding the ‘N’ word by trying to get ahead of a controversy that wasn’t one, it would’ve been better for them to take no position at all. After all, grown men play the game of football and it should be up to them to decide if they want to use or be referred to by this term.
If this ridiculousness comes to fruition, the NFL will put itself in the position of verbal legislature over the players, while putting the referees in a situation where they not only have to watch out for normal penalties, but be charged with penalizing language used among players on the field as well; this is an additional responsibility they should not have to endure. After all, don’t we have more important things to attend to instead of monitoring what players say to each other on the football field?
Alice Nelson writes movie reviews at DVD Verdict