The National Football League is trying too hard. The question is, what's its angle?
The NFL, it seems, won't rest until the game is stripped down to the point where it's hardly watchable. The league has all but taken out celebrations, i.e. fun, has changed the rules in a futile attempt to make a barbaric game safer and has modified equipment, again, in the name of safety.
But its latest idea - to eliminate the "N-word" from being used during games - seems like a reach, even for such a powerful, narcissistic organization.
Legislating language during intense competition? Is that even possible?
The NFL wants to improve its image, no doubt. It wants us to believe players are safer now than they were a decade ago because of the moves it has made and money it has spent on education and equipment - moves they say are in the best interest of the players (and moves that the league hopes will shield the league from future lawsuits). What better way to improve its image than publicly saying it despises the "N-word" to the point where it could begin penalizing players who use it?
When it comes to this kind of language, context is everything. The "N-word," which will always be looked at in our society as a reprehensible word, can do a tremendous amount of damage, yet it can also be used as a term of endearment of sorts among African Americans. Some surely believe the black community is hypocritical as it chastises the use of a word, but uses it itself.
The NFL is right in taking a stand against this horrible word and wanting to remove the use of it from its games, stadiums and locker rooms, but it's wrong, dead wrong, in thinking it can actually pull it off and censor its players. Football is still America's most popular sport, and the NFL is a powerful beast of a machine, but not to the extent where it can control what comes out of the mouths of its players during the heat and intensity of a game.
This is not for the NFL to police; assessing a 15-yard penalty to players who use the "N-word" won't stop it from being used. Tossing a player from a game for a second infraction won't stop it from being used. This issue is for the teams, the coaches, to deal with. But can we expect the coaches to be any more successful than the league in preventing their players from saying it?
We can object to the "N-word" all we want, and we should. It's the most disgusting grouping of six letters imaginable, a word that can not be sanitized. But it's not going anywhere. A certain percentage of white people will continue using the word in a derogatory manner because they're ignorant racists. Certain black people will continue using the word in their own context because they have embraced it in a way Caucasians can't understand.
It's a gross word, but no one can stop it from being used. Not even the NFL.