ESPN aired a fascinating piece on the use of the N-word on Sunday night during a special report by Outside the Lines with journalists Michael Wilbon and Jason Whitlock joining rapper/actor Common and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark about how the word is used in sports today.
Last week the NFL said they are considering a rule that will penalize players for using the word which Clark thinks will be difficult to legislate, because he’s seen it in his own locker room where team chairman Dan Rooney wanted his players to stop using the word.
“Mr. Rooney actually talked to Ike Taylor about it this season. Ike and Mr. Rooney have a very good relationship,” Clark said, per ProFootballTalk. “He told Ike, ‘I don’t want you guys using that word.’”
The word vanished among the Steelers locker room because of the respect Rooney holds in that locker room and from head coach Mike Tomlin, but the word slowly crept back into the normal vocabulary of the Steelers.
“You stopped hearing it immediately that day,” Clark said. “But after a while, it came back because it’s the culture. After a while, it comes back because this is what these guys have grown up with.”
That was one of the main issues on last night’s report on Outside the Lines as some African-Americans like Charles Barkley use the word and others in the report said they use it as a way to express love for another. Meanwhile, others like Whitlock who appeared on the piece hope the word can be buried.
We’ve already seen at least one attempt to bury the word in the NFL, so Clark may be right when he says it’s going to be tough for the NFL to legislate and penalize everyone who uses the word.