The NFL Should Not Censor the N-Word

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke doesn't think professional football should police players' language.

NFL referees will likely penalize teams for players' use of the N-word during games this fall. "The officials will be empowered to call a foul if there are racial slurs or statements regarding another player's sexual orientation," St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said last week. "[The N-word] falls under that. It is going to be a very significant point of emphasis." Fisher is part of the league's competition committee, which proposes rules for the owners to vote on.

It is impossible to get rid of the N-word. It's taken on a life of its own.

African Americans are split on how they feel about it. Older, conservative generations who lived through segregation and the civil rights movement would love to see the N-word abolished. Those folks still feel the brutal sting, like the crack of a whip on a slave's back, whenever someone, regardless of skin color, utters it.

Younger, liberal generations that grew up on rap music and MTV embrace it as part of their daily dialogue. They use it in both derogatory and complimentary ways. For instance, if I say, "That's my nigga," I'm calling someone my pal or my buddy. And "What's up, nigga?" is the equivalent of "Hey, guy, what's going on?" Hip-hop artists have been using the N-word in this context since the '80s. An unintended consequence is that hip-hop fans who are not black think it is okay for them to use the N-word. A Hialeah chico may be comfortable using the N-word because he feels a kinship with the struggle African Americans in Liberty City experience.

Now, if a black man has a friend who stabs him in the back, burglarizes his house, or sleeps with his significant other, that's a "fuck nigga." On the football field, you might see a defensive player trying to take out a wide receiver's legs and injure him. The wide receiver is likely to get in his opponent's face and scream, "That was some fuck nigga shit you just did."

That's completely different from an incident before last season involving Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who is white. At a country music concert, the University of Florida alum was caught on video saying, "I will fight every nigger in here."

It is not an NFL referee's job to censor athletes. Refs are there to call games impartially, regardless of what players say to one another in the heat of battle.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1 and @unclelukesempir

Tune into Luke on the Andy Slater Show every Tuesday, 2 to 5 p.m., on Miami's Sports Animal, 940 AM.

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