There hasn’t been a time in recent memory when the very culture of the NFL has come under more fire than the last year. From the ongoing revelations about concussions to the bullying case involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, there’s always been some kind of negative news breaking. And of course, this last year, it all started with Riley Cooper.
Even before the season started, Cooper caused a major problem when he was caught on video using the “N word” at a summer concert. He acted like a complete drunken fool, and in the 24-hour news cycle, suggestions for his punishment ranged from suspending him to outright banning him from football.
Cooper ended up leaving the Philadelphia Eagles for several days, which allowed him to seek counseling and also to let the public relations nightmare die down a bit before he returned to the team’s facilities. But while we as fans have notoriously short memories about these things, the league itself clearly does not.
In a recent report from the Associated Press, it is expected that the league will enact a rule at next month’s owners meetings that will ban the use of the word, and presumably all racist language, on the field. Under the proposed rule, a player using that type of language will be given a 15-yard penalty on the first infraction, and ejected from the game on the second.
Honestly, I can’t believe it’s taken them this long to make something like that happen. It’s not just about the fact that a large part of the league is African American, or even the fact that Michael Sam is about to become the first openly gay active player in the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell is all about “protecting the shield”, and having an image where that type of language is acceptable can’t stand.
There is absolutely no place in decent society for racist or homophobic slurs, and the NFL has the platform to really make an impact here. Players are certainly still going to use plenty of foul words, and if you’ve spent any time in a locker room you understand that. But if this gets people to use the space between their brains and their mouths before they spout off garbage, at least at the workplace, that can only be a good thing.
I’m not pretending that a football rule will change our society overnight, but every move we can make towards eliminating this type of hateful language is a step in the right direction.