By: Michael Levell (@4HFAdvantage)
I have been a fan of yours since I was 6 years old. At that time, my father groomed me to be a Dallas Cowboys and a Miami Dolphins fan. A lot has changed since then (considering I am an Atlanta Falcons fan now). As I changed, the product that you have placed on the field has changed as well. Your game has become more high scoring and more visible. There is now more parody in who wins the Super Bowl than ever before because of salary cap rules and the focus on the NFL Draft. Even with the increase in lower body injuries, you have evolved into a safer sport. I may not have always agreed with the changes that you have made, but each one seemed to be addressed at the appropriate time – until now.
According to CBS Sports NFL Insider, Jason La Canfora, your product is on the verge of a big change in how you police the game:
John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league's competition committee to enact a rule at the owner's meeting next month making it an automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, with a second infraction meriting an ejection. (2014)
As a black man, I applaud your efforts in becoming racially progressive as a sport. However, I question if this is the appropriate time to embark on such a change? Outside of the use of this racial slur, there are many public relation concerns and changes that need to be addressed at a higher priority. This is especially true when you consider the recent revealing of some of your athlete's alleged darker lives while actively playing or working for you. For instance, future Hall of Famer Darren Sharper has been accused of drugging and raping women during his stint as an NFL Network Analyst. Is your firing of Sharper the only way that you plan on handling these serious allegations? The same issue arises for former Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez since he has been indicted for murder. Not only was Hernandez a part of the New England Patriots when the murder occurred, but he is also under investigation for other murders in Massachusetts – allowing us to speculate Hernandez was deeply involved in a criminal underworld while being celebrated as a rising star. You have not addressed these players' actions or negative impact on your brand, nor have you scratched the surface on how to handle the locker room bullying situation from the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin fallout. Maybe it is time for those situations to be handled before you try to put regulations on a slur that has not been "policed" by blacks in America.
I wonder if now is the best time to address what players say offensively on the field when the name of one of your storied franchises' is considered a slur by Native Americans. We, as fans, rarely hear what the athletes say on the field but EVERYONE is exposed to the NFL logo and team of our nation's capital. Isn't it just as divisive if you continue to support the Washington Redskins fight to keep their name? Above all other public relation issues that exist currently, none are more divisive than the concussion lawsuit that is still in limbo after the previous $765 million settlement was rejected by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody. The same legends that helped build the NFL to its current status are now suing over their lingering post-football injuries. This lawsuit has divided those without health issues and those living with them. It has even divided the fans that love violent collisions from the fans that want a heavily officiated but safer game. With your status as America's game, shouldn't your focus be on repairing the legacy, respect, and future of the game?
I can accept that something has to be done about the frequent use of this racial slur. However, this is not your issue to police and regulate. We, as black people, would need to come to a resolution on the use of the slur before we accept help from anybody else. I hope that you would focus your attention on more pressing matters than something that will have a minimum positive impact on the game that I love.