Said Michael Sam — the openly gay football player, who's participating in the National Football League Scouting Combine — when a reporter asked he what he'd do if a teammate directed an epithet at him.
Meanwhile, the NFL is close to adopting a new rule that would impose a 15-yard penalty for the use of the N-word during a football game.
"I will be totally shocked if the competition committee does not uphold us on what we’re trying to do," [said John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the influential group that proposed the rule]. "We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room. Secretaries, PR people, whoever, we want it eliminated completely and want it policed everywhere. I think they’re going to do what needs to be done here... There is too much disrespect in the game."...That last remark refers to the existing rule against "unsportsmanlike conduct." Carson's point is that there needs to be a new, focused effort, with automatic enforcement on first violation.
"I think there is going to be a higher emphasis placed on it," [said former player Harry Carson, who's now the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance]. "It needs to be put a halt to in the locker room, on the field, whether it’s staff, whether it’s a player, there is no room for it... I don’t think it’s any new rule that we are pushing for because we have been told by the league that the penalty is there. It just has to be assessed if it is used."
I would expect to hear the criticism that the rule unfairly burdens black players, who might claim a different self-expression interest in the use of the word. But you can see why only a clear rule, equally applicable to everyone, will work, and when that rule is adopted everyone in the game will have to stop.
What do you think of free-expression;chilling rules like this within this particular workplace? Do you think the "I'll have a conversation with that guy" approach is better? Is it ironic that the gay guy brings an old-school manly approach to dealing with the problem? Or do you think the flat, automatic harsh penalty — no exceptions, no nuance — is the harder core masculinity?
My law-professorly answer to those questions is...
... that a man dealing with the problem on his own, especially talking publicly, in advance, about what he will do, is rational to think in terms of building his relations with other people and not escalating the conflict, but an organization managing a large workplace is in a different position and must think in terms of establishing policies that can be understood, accepted as the norm, and enforced against violators. It's not really an issue of which approach is more manly. It's an issue of whether you are a man, acting alone, or whether you are in a management position.
And my speaking in terms of what is more manly was a conversational prod, because I — a woman — am always trying to have a conversation with you guys and ladies. And I opted not to use the alternative prod: Don't you think the "I'll have a conversation with that guy" approach is kind of gay? I contemplated writing that as an amusing way to ask the question, but there are too many actual anti-gay people around here to support a comic move of that sort from me. Maybe that makes me a little unmanly, which is my prerogative as a lady.
Which prods me to say what I shouldn't have to say, which is that these manly moves like "I'll have a conversation with that guy" and time for a clear, flat rule are also womanly moves, and there's a time and a place for both approaches from both sexes.