Riley Cooper’s recent racist outburst has brought a significant amount of attention to the issue of racism in the NFL this month. Many fans and players are outraged over his use of the N-word, while others have expressed a willingness to forgive Cooper and move on.
For some, it is the way Cooper used the word that is disturbing, not the fact that he used it. Detroit Lions tight end Tony Scheffler and safety Louis Delmas admit they are guilty of using racial slurs toward one another, but they say it is a sign of friendship.
“Me and (Scheffler) have a relationship many people do not have — both black and white,” Delmas told Terry Foster of The Detroit News. “I look at him like my brother. I love him to death.
“He greets me, ‘What up, n—–?’ But I understand it. So I say, ‘What’s up, cracker?’ But we would never take it outside the building.”
Scheffler said he considers Delmas family, but that he understands why the way they talk to each other would not be acceptable for everyone.
“I treat Louis like a little brother,” he explained. “He knows my wife and kids. He calls me ‘white boy’ and ‘cracker.’ We go back and forth with it and we are both comfortable with each other.
“I can’t say the same with other relationships in the locker room or how other guys would feel about it. So it is a tough dynamic when you are using those types of words. Everybody does not react the same.”
While there are people who would argue that racial slurs are unacceptable in all situations, my personal belief is that the details of the friendship between Delmas and Scheffler are nobody’s business but their own. If they choose to show affection by calling each other names but keep it within the friendship, they’re not going to offend anyone.
That being said, I can understand the argument for losing racial slurs altogether — in friendly everyday context and songs. Cooper’s remark was said with anger, and he was talking about fighting a particular race. But one theory is that racism is always going to exist if people continue to use racist terms, regardless of the context.
“My teammates understand me,” Delmas said. “They call me n—– all the time. We have a bond that can’t be broken. And the minute you let that bond get outside this organization and you use that word outside this building, then you need to look yourself in the mirror and address it. The way the public blew up the (Cooper) situation, it should be blown up that way because he needs to learn a lesson. You can’t say that. You will never see me going outside the building calling someone cracker. You can’t do that.”
Obviously, Delmas and Scheffler feel that there is a significant difference. I agree, but I can also see how people would argue that those types of contexts desensitize the terms and perpetuate their use. If you ask me, I think it was pointless for Scheffler and Delmas to share the details of their dynamic with a reporter. Why not keep it behind closed doors if that’s part of the reason it’s acceptable?