The NFL is giving strong consideration to adopting a rule that would result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the use of a racial slur. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one team that would likely be in favor of the rule, as team chairman Dan Rooney has already told his players to stop using the N-word in the locker room.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark said Rooney told the team last season that he did not want to hear his players using the N-word or listening to music that featured it.
“Mr. Rooney actually talked to Ike Taylor about it this season,” Clark said on ESPN Sunday night, via Pro Football Talk. “Ike and Mr. Rooney have a very good relationship. He told Ike, ‘I don’t want you guys using that word.’
“Ike went around to specific people and said, ‘Listen, this is what Mr. Rooney told me.’ He’s the ambassador. We call him Old Man Rooney. He has a lot of respect, and because of the way he has treated us as players, as black athletes, also treated Coach Tomlin as a black coach, you know it’s coming from a place of love.”
Rooney is a former US ambassador to Ireland and is well respected among the Steelers players. Clark said the players respected Rooney’s request at first, but the word started making its way back into everyday situations shortly thereafter.
“You stopped hearing it immediately that day,” he 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.”
This is another good example of how NFL culture is in need of a change. With the prospect of openly gay athletes soon being a part of NFL locker rooms, words like “fag” and “queer” should be cut out of players’ vocabularies as well. It will take a lot of time before we stop hearing them altogether.