John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said his organization is continuing to push the NFL aggressively to get use of the “N” word out of games and perhaps out of the locker room as well.
“It shouldn’t be allowed in game, it shouldn’t be on the practice field and it shouldn’t be in the locker room,” said the 77-year-old Wooten, who is black and played offensive line for Washington and Cleveland. Wooten, a two-time Pro Bowler, eventually became a coach and then an executive in the league.
Members of the alliance met with Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league executives on Dec. 13 to push the idea and discuss several other topics. Wooten said he and other members of the alliance, which works primarily to promote minority coaches and executives, would like to see game officials penalize use of the word more aggressively with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said over the weekend that game officials already have the power to penalize players for abusive language under the description of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Wooten said that use of the word has grown over the years as it has become part of cultural lexicon, particularly in rap music. He said that the one-game suspension of official Roy Ellison was an example of how use of the word has gotten out of control.
Ellison, who is also black, was suspended after Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams said Ellison talked to him with abusive language. While Wooten acknowledged Ellison’s mistake, he said Ellison was reacting to how Williams and Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox were talking to each other throughout the game.
When Ellison told them to stop using the “N” word toward each other, the conversation quickly degenerated, Wooten said. Williams has denied using the vulgarity, but Wooten said he believes Ellison’s version of the story.
Either way, Wooten and the alliance want what they consider vile language contained in a more aggressively.
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