Richard Sherman Explains Why New NFL Racism Policy Still Doesn't Go Far Enough
America's favorite Sunday pastime just got a lot more sportsmanlike, thanks to the National Football League's Annual Press Conference Wednesday. Following an incident in a game last November between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins, in which umpire Roy Ellison allegedly made a "profane and derogatory statement," the NFL has directed increased attention to racial slurs and inappropriate remarks amongst players and officials.
John Wooten, who chairs the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which "promotes diversity and equality" in the League, applauded the NFL's renewed commitment to sportsmanship, calling it a "tremendous victory." In Wednesday's press conference, Jeff Fisher, the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, said that they would "clean up the game up on the field between the players," emphasizing that racially charged language was "all in the book... under unsportsmanlike conduct."
The press conference comes after John Wooten proposed an "automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, and an automatic ejection for a player who does it twice."
The NFL has seen its fair share of controversy both on and off the field regarding offensive language. University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam's announcement that he is gay garnered homophobic responses from both inside and outside the league, with former NFL coach Herm Edwards calling Sam's sexual orientation extra "baggage." Reports of bigotry, racism, and intolerance-at-large in the Miami Dolphin's locker room created a stir, even necessitating an inquiry into workplace conditions, and racism on Twitter exploded following Richard Sherman's outburst after the Seahawks win.
While one might imagine that measures aimed at making the NFL a less racist, homophobic, and bigoted environment would meet with little pushback or distaste, football never fails to surprise. In fact, one of the most vocal critics of the proposed 15-yard penalty for the N-word comes from none other than Richard Sherman, who was subjected to a slew of racist remarks just a couple months ago. In fact, Sherman called it an "atrocious idea," saying that it was "almost racist."
But Sherman raises an excellent point. While the NFL is now cracking down on the use of the N-word, there seems to be an obvious hypocrisy in their continued refusal to change the name of the Washington Redskins. Despite repeated attempts by the Native American population, lawmakers, and fans, Redskins owner Dan Snyder remains firm, releasing a statement late Monday night that "the name and the logo would remain the same."
Nevermind that "redskin" has even been deemed by the U.S. Trademark office to be derogatory. Moreover, as Sherman points out, there seems to be particular attention paid to the N-word without banning all other curse words. So while the NFL certainly seems to be taking steps in the right direction, it's still going to have to do more than instate a 15-yard penalty to combat racism.