Peter King Discovers That Banning The N-Word Might Actually Be A Complex Issue

03.03.14 4 years ago 137 Comments


When last we left film room tourist, Peter King, he was performing an image-ectomy on Johnny Manziel, which more or less consisted of asking him about that time he was drunk then calling him short again. Peter also said he began crying for 12 years after watching 12 Years a Slave. So it’s fair to attribute all mistakes and laziness in this week’s column to PK going through something emotional.

But what about this week? Well, it turns out this N-word that the NFL wants to ban is a hotbed of sensitive issues. WHO KNEW? Also, Peter doesn’t want to knock Jimmy Graham but he’s a soft wussy boy who wilts against tough competition. Not knocking, though! Okay, READ ON.

We seem to have a disagreement about Johnny Manziel, and the salary cap has exploded in a good way, and Brandin Cooks is trying to elbow his way up in the first round, and free agency is only eight days away, and the Eagles have done a bunch of good business.

And what is this bombardment of conjunctives and why can’t you start a new sentence and who talks this way and there are too many questions and all the answers are depressing and it’s not even noon and I need a drink and it needs to be strong.

But first, about that n-word …


The NFL Competition Committee has been meeting in Florida since Friday, and one of the items the eight men are debating is whether it should be a penalty if a player on the field uses the n-word. I am hearing it is unlikely a rule will be passed this year penalizing a player for using the n-word for the first time in a game. Three outcomes are possible:

1. Roger Goodell ends racism with a stern glance and a balled fist.
2. There are no other outcomes

1. The Competition Committee will urge that it be a point of emphasis for officials this year. When officials hear it, they would admonish players about it and do nothing else.

2. The committee will urge that offending players be warned if the word is used on the field during games. After a warning, a player with a second use could be penalized for using it, at the discretion of the officiating crew. I say “could be,” because the league could give officiating crews the option of throwing a flag, depending on the circumstances.

Holy shit, that second scenario would be so unwieldy and disastrous, there’s no way it doesn’t happen. There’s nothing the NFL needs more than a controversial penalty being arbitrarily enforced by each officiating crew. That way, if something goes wrong, the league can just pass the blame on to that referee.

3. Nothing will change. Players will be allowed to use the word at will.

Especially Riley Cooper.

I believe a combination of numbers one and two is most likely.

Far be from you to choose just one. Also, the second option is already an extension of the first one.

Over the weekend, I communicated with three African-American players about it. Two of them were opposed to the word being banned. A third thought it was a good idea but would be hard to police.

“It’s an atrocious idea,” said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. “It’s almost racist, to me. It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”

You know Tony Dungy would if he could.

Sherman emphasized that the n-word ending in “-er” is racist, but the n-word ending in “-a” is not, when used among African-American players.

Thanks for clarifying on the hard R. It’s funny because the average Peter King reader actually finds that informative.

Free agent linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said, “Ultimately, if the NFL can get it done, it’s great for our game. But I think refs have a hard enough time officiating the game now. Now they’d be asked to police language?”

“This unenforceable rule would be great if you could enforce it!”

One reliable league source told me the biggest problem he saw is that very often during scrums, name-calling and foul language are exchanged by a group of players. What happens if an official thinks he heard the n-word from one player and it actually was another? The referee could call the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty/language foul, and if the offending player is white, it’s going to scar him for his career. What if the call is made on the wrong player?

Then PFT Commenter will show up to say it’s referees who are the real racists.

And even if the ref didn’t see who said it, it’s pretty easy to discern whether it’s coming from a white player or a black player. And if there are multiple white dudes spouting the N-word at once on the field, then the problem is even bigger than most people though. Naturally, though, PK’s concern is the plight of the poor, scrappy, hypothetically victimized white guy.

It’s a very difficult issue, obviously.

Oh, is it? PK from last week:


In the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning locker room, explicit rap songs, several using the n-word repeatedly, blared out from a boom box at Marshawn Lynch’s locker.

Which has no bearing on a rule about banning players using it on the field, but thanks for reminding us that you have access and make no use of it.

Last week, I was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame doing some research.

“You mean there are players that IIIIIIII didn’t vote into the Hall of Fame? WEIRD!”

It’s known in pro football circles that the Cleveland Browns had black players in pro football (Marion Motley and Bill Willis) before the Los Angeles Dodgers had the first major-league ballplayer (Jackie Robinson).

That’s Brooklyn Dodgers, baseball asshole.

Motley and Willis played for the Browns beginning in 1946, Robinson a year later with the Dodgers. But I was surprised to learn Cleveland coach Paul Brown was forced to leave Motley and Willis behind for a road trip to Miami on Dec. 3, 1946. The local segregation laws forbade black players from being on the field with whites then.

Quick aside: I read Vince Lombardi’s biography last year and there’s a story in it about how Lombardi supposedly got on the good side of his black players by claiming he was once the victim of discrimination in the South because the coach someone mistook him for being black, which is the biggest load of horseshit I’ve ever read.

So now you see the layout of the issues. It’s an incredibly sensitive topic, which makes the Competition Committee’s job impossible.

Poor Jeff Fisher! Why can’t people just let him fistpump in peace without having to weigh thorny issues?

No matter what the Rich McKay- and Jeff Fisher-led committee recommends, it will face ire from one of two sides: football traditionalists/respected veterans who see it as an issue of dignity, or many modern players who see it as an infringement of free speech.

Compromise, as always, is the answer. “N-words for some, miniature American flags for others.”

Last week, former quarterbacks and current tape students Ron Jaworski and Phil Simms both came out as skeptics of Johnny Manziel. I liked it. If you’re an analyst and don’t voice your real opinion, what good are you?

Says a writer who hedges nearly every statement he makes.

But it is folly to say he hasn’t played well at times in the pocket; some of his best plays—though maybe not always with good footwork—came with traffic around him, and Manziel finding the receiver he needed to find.

Yeah, I’m sure Peter has done a thorough film review of Manziel’s footwork, a la his terrific work on Clowney.

Between now and the May 8 NFL draft, I plan to take a look at a different player in the news each week. This week, one of the stars of the NFL Scouting Combine, wide receiver Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.

I watched the Oregon State offensive snaps of three of his 2013 games—against Cal, Stanford and USC. It was the TV copy, and the wide receivers were out of the picture quite often, so I couldn’t get a good picture of him blocking downfield (though he did block aggressively in a scrum against Stanford for a fellow receiver). And I can’t say I am confident about his route-running either, for a similar reason.

So watch the All-22 footage, you lazy dumbfuck.

Quotes of the Week

“Russell Wilson is more explosive. He’s naturally bigger and stronger than Johnny Manziel. They’re not even close in arm strength.”

—Phil Simms, to Adam Schein of SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio.

Not even close? Simms is a scientist of the position, and he has watched 1,000 hours of tape for every one I have watched. But did he see the Manziel strike, while off-balance, that traveled 44 yards in the air to Mike Evans against Alabama? Or the one that went 53 yards in the air downfield, also a strike, against Arkansas?

We’re you just praising Simms for having unflagging conviction about his opinions? “It’s good to be wrong so long as you’re confidently wrong!”

“One source with inside knowledge of the team says that Harbaugh’s act has worn thin in the locker room, particularly among some key ‘face of the 49ers’ type players.”

—Ann Killion, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, writing Sunday about the continuing melodrama that is Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers.

Just another brick in the wall of why I say the over/under on Harbaugh’s tenure with the team is one more season.

Great way of saying something that sounds like a prediction but really means nothing. Why go out on a limb and actually say you think this will be Harbs’ last year with the Niners when you can set gambling odds on it, that way you can’t be wrong no matter what happens.

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

The Phillies’ Triple-A team in eastern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, have an alternate cap this year that they plan to wear on Saturdays. It has a slice of bacon on the front of it.

Factoid that only interests you and the 10,000 websites that posted on it last week.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Not a travel note, really, but a slice-of-non-green-life note from New York City:


I observed The Seven-Towel Man on Saturday at my gym in Manhattan, while on parallel schedules with the man. Three towels for the steam room—one to wrap around his waist, one as a cape around his shoulder, one to hold in his hands to wipe his brow. After a short steam, he deposited the three towels in the hamper. He took two for the shower—one to dry himself and one as a mat for the floor when he left the shower. He dropped those in the hamper. The Seven-Towel-Man then took two for post-showering, and I did not see what he did with those.

One man, 25 minutes, seven towels. Life is plush.

Profligate towel abuse, the worst of this country’s many ills. DO SOMETHING, CONGRESS!

The man should be commended for not taking 20 towels to block his eyes in case turning the wrong way got him an eyeful of Peter King chub.

Also, a shame that we were so close to finding out that PK is in fact the type of steam room guy who keeps pouring hot water on the bricks.

Tweets of the Week

“First time I’ve seen CC Sabathia this spring. There’s so much less of him, they should change his name to just ‘C’ “

—@jaysonst, columnist Jayson Stark, Saturday from spring training. Sabathia, the Yankees pitcher, has lost more than a few pounds.

I actually think it’s an interesting idea to give fat people longer names as a means of public shaming. We’d have Peterloftstronki Kingpapadoupolous.

Ten Things I Think I Think

2. I think there’s no way I’m giving up two first-round picks and $12 million a year for a tight end, particularly one I’m not sure is going to be great consistently against physical defenses. That’s not a knock on Jimmy Graham.

Certainly not. Calling a player soft might even be construed as a compliment in some contexts. Let’s ask Richard Sherman what it means in the black community.

7. I think we all want to know: Jerry Jones, what were you doing at the Oscars last night?


8. I think if Peyton Manning flunks his 2014 physical—Jeff Legwold of reports the exam will happen today—I will eat this laptop. The Broncos are not about to let that happen.

Well if the Broncos can fuck up using a fax machine they can certainly fuck up fixing a team physical.

9. I think the biggest sign that Greg Schiano will someday work with Bill Belichick in New England, and the most interesting personnel result from the last week, is this: New England could start three Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the secondary this fall: free safety Devin McCourty (round one, 2010), strong safety Duron Harmon (round three, 2013) and cornerback Logan Ryan (round three, 2013).

It’s not that Schiano hero worships Grumblelord and would probably even pay him to grovel at his feet for a full season. It’s that they happen to have a couple Rutgers players and certainly no one can get production out of them than that one coach they had in college.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Lupita Nyong’o. Awesome.

b. Nyong’o: “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.”

c. Great job, P!nk.

d. Great job, U2.



Who needs to live-tweet the Oscars when you can toss in a handful of banal reactions in your football column the next day?

e. But you, Bette Midler, you are still amazing. What a voice, what a song.

What a country. What a life.

j. If this is it for Martin Brodeur in New Jersey after nearly a quarter-century as the goaltender of the Devils (1991-2014), and I hope it is not (the NHL trading deadline is Wednesday, and Brodeur is a clear number two in goal now for the Devils), it should be noted that Brodeur has 132 more wins in goal than any goalie ever, and 21 more shutouts than any goalie ever. All for Jersey.

And a decorated history of being the only player Peter King can name on his favorite hockey team.

k. Beernerdness: Thanks to my friends at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and especially Joe Horrigan, for taking us out to a place that served Great Lakes Brewing’s Burning River Pale Ale. Fresh and with a good bite, this ale reminded me of the San Diego pale ale, Ballast Point. Both have a touch of pine. This is my favorite of the Great Lakes beers.

Sounds like you got a lot of research done.

The Adieu Haiku

Commercials. Which has
more—Oscars or Super Bowl?
Brick through the TV.

King eats his laptop
Slightly poison but good taste
Lofty way to die

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