February 23, 2014

What's the more masculine response to nasty epithets — having a conversation or calling a 15-yard penalty?

"If someone wants to call me a name I'll have a conversation, with that guy and hopefully it won't happen to someone else."

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."...

"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."
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 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.

73 comments:

Michael said...

It is a stupid rule but these are stupid times. Once a single word, phrase or action is carved out for prohibition for one group but allowed for another on a planet both groups occupy the rule makers have only a stupid choice. In the case of the gay player lots of new words will be added to the list.

traditionalguy said...

Creating an Index of prohibited speech is not a good idea. Once we accept that as a normal way to punish unpopular thoughts, we are all in jeopardy of living in a Theocracy that dreams up its own rules as was done in Queen Victoria's England.

Ann Althouse said...

"Once a single word, phrase or action is carved out for prohibition for one group…"

Yeah, well, that word actually deserves that status at this point.

And the general rule against "unsportsmanlike conduct" is already there to encompass other words if they operate in the same way.

RecChief said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RecChief said...

So grown men can't take care of themselves? Having played organized football and hockey, there are ways to address the situation when someone is doing something like that. And all legal. Players say things to other players in an attempt to get an emotional response. I've heard all manner of nasty things about my sister, my mother, calling a player "fag" and worse. The point is, these things were said in order to get the opposing player to respond and quit executing the plays. I'm not saying it's right, but it happens, and, at least in my experience, it was simply to get the other guy (me) off his game. Football is not for the faint of heart. I quit giving to my alma mater when I found out they had a speech code, if this rule goes into effect, guess I won't be watching the NFL either.

MayBee said...

These are adult men. I'm sure they can handled rough talk without the referees acting as playground moms.
I'm also sure Michael Sam doesn't want a lot of rules acting to cordon him off as a special exhibit. He's already lived his life handling it discreetly.

Stupid rule proposal.

Ray Stickler said...

So, shouldn't there also be a rule against calling white players "cracker" or "white boy"? OR are they saying that black players are never racists?

sean said...

Henry Louis Gates wrote a good piece about "hate speech" prohibitions a few years back (you could look it up). Among his many good points, he noted that, in practice, such laws end up being mostly applied against black people. Of course, for some people, that may be a feature, not a bug.

Renee said...

Conversation approach is leading by example.

Had people "unfriend" me due to difference on marriage, shut out completely I privately to not call me an idiot for my views even thouh we didagreed.

The person had a college degree.

They are professional players, behave or be penalized.

Michael said...

Althouse." Yeah, well, that word actually deserves that status at this point"

Which word is that? There are plenty of epithets used against gays. Do none of them deserve a special carve out? Why not?

Tank said...

It's only a word. Men do not wee wee themselves over a word. Why must we belittle certain groups and men by assuming they are little cry babies who are going to faint over a word?

Michael said...

Traditionalguy's point is the one we should keep in mind. The list is growing.

Strick said...

Clearly this is evidence of racial sterotyping. A rule against any racial slur would make sense, using racial slurs is unsportman. Assuming the N word is the only racial slur in football ignores potential slurs against all other races, ethnicities...

Strick said...

Clearly this is evidence of racial sterotyping. A rule against any racial slur would make sense, using racial slurs is unsportman. Assuming the N word is the only racial slur in football ignores potential slurs against all other races, ethnicities...

rhhardin said...

Hurtful langauge is the point. It only hurts you if you're a girl about it.

Man up.

This is KAOS. We don't shush here.

rhhardin said...

I'd go for rot-13 as a compromise.

Everybody speak rot-13, and if you decode it, be prepared to microoffended.

Illuninati said...

The timing of this rule is somewhat curious. Judging by their pictures, the Seattle Seahawks have about 60-70% black players including a black quarterback. To all appearances, it is a well functioning completely integrated organization without any speech codes. So why now? Is this really about protecting football players or is it using football players to make a political statement?
https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GUEA_enUS558US558&q=seahawks+roster

rhhardin said...

Racial prejudice is a terrible thing, Yossarian. It really is. It's a terrible thing to treat a decent, loyal Indian like a nigger, kike, wop, or spic.

rhhardin said...

I'd assume the crowd will be shouting the featured banned words.

Like Mets stadium on D-cell battery night.

rhhardin said...

You could have banned word night.

Put the night's word up on the scoreboard.

rhhardin said...

Banning prepositions would cover more of the awful insults out there.

Ban "you." Also "thou" to catch people trying to cheat in spirit.

rhhardin said...

pronouns

rhhardin said...

This isn't going to stop the problem though.

$ insult 20
You miasmal GI can of infested goose hemorrhage
You uninviting porringer of defiled salmon trout jet
You joyless brandy snifter of injurious fox terrier sputum
You depressing ostensorium of innutritious bass tears
You obnoxious cone of miasmal bonefish odds and ends
You intolerable demitasse of anemic German short-haired pointer puke
You hard-visaged corbeil [archit] of loose mandrill scoria
You heinous udder of ravaged cedar waxwing traces
You malformed cedar chest of morbific siren crap
You uglified pod of poisonous loon excrement
You unsavory water butt of tumorous gnu foam
You unsightly money box of neuritic chewink ruins
You dislikable billfold of beset beluga autacoid
You pestilent packing box of infectious petrel butts
You troublesome barracks bag of insalubrious Welsh pony chips
You grim roaster of epileptic hackee expectoration
You nasty carpetbag of toxicant spoonbill excretes
You ghastly scrip [archaic] of venenous horned screamer drivel
You sorrowful pan broiler of soiled croaker rumps
You vexing skep of smirched carabao sweepings

SGT Ted said...

ALL of us would be in trouble if we used the word "nigger" routinely at work. It's a violation of E&EO laws.

Why should the NFLs well payed football players be allowed to break the law while at work?

Because of their skin color?

SGT Ted said...

Our speech is already policed at work, people. The NFL is just getting around to noticing.

Since whites can get fired for using it, all the rest of them need to be held to the same standard.

If we do that, we may see some of this word nonsense start to be reversed. Either everybody can say a word in a professional setting, or nobody can. No special carve-outs for skin color.

rhhardin said...

More playground rules are needed in football.

No running.

SGT Ted said...

So why now? Is this really about protecting football players or is it using football players to make a political statement?

They are merely willing to hold the black players to the same standard demanded of from white players.

The political statement is "no special rules for you because of your skin color".

They are Alinskying the black racialists double standard of what is "offensive" speech, by making the black players conform to the rules they expect non-blacks to be subject to, but think they can ignore.

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules." -Saul Alinksy

It's about bloody time this happened.

rhhardin said...

The interesting legal question is no doubt what happens to the legal rube goldberg construction if the next rule is too ridiculous for normal people.

SGT Ted said...

This isn't about "free speech".

This is about professional conduct in the work place and equal enforcement of the rules.

rhhardin said...

The positive rogue sentiment meaning of nigger should be allowed on the field, no matter who says it.

Context will determine.

SGT Ted said...

Blacks in the Military are not allowed to use that word, either. Not even in the locker room.

As it should be.

chickenlittle said...

Getting penilized for saying a word is the manlier response but there would have to be no bending of the rules.

rhhardin said...

Teach them all I'm rubber you're glue etc.

The best defense is a good defense.

The only trouble with the line is that it can't be sung in the childhood taunt melody.

rhhardin said...

00:33:52 -CHIEF: Can I have a moment, please? -23: Sure.

00:33:55 23: Yes, Chief.

00:33:56 CHIEF: Let me tell you about a pattern that's beginning to emerge.

00:34:00 CHIEF: As a former field agent, I'm very much aware...

00:34:02 CHIEF: ...of how difficult it is to make the transition to office life.

00:34:05 23: He didn't unjam the copier.

00:34:07 23: We have rules here. If you don't follow the rules, then what are we?

00:34:10 CHIEF: I'll tell you what we're not. We're not people who jam staples into people's heads.

00:34:15 CHIEF: That's CIA crap.

Get Smart (2008)

Shouting Thomas said...

We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room.

We've obviously reached the point of absolute, comic stupidity here.

This shit desperately calls out for a Monty Python type skit produced by a comedy group with the balls to really go for the jugular.

Football players in tutus?

Pro football players need to be protected from bullying and name calling! Are you folks not getting the insanely stupid humor of this?

Althouse has lost it. Yes, deference to office politics demands taking this shit seriously if you want to CYA and survive.

I have no position to protect and I don't give a damn about office politics. So, I can see clearly how the "nigger" game has degenerated into an S&M game for idiots.

Where's the Bob Dylan among today's kids with the courage and skill to ridicule and shred the pompous stupidity of the powers that be... which includes, by the way, Althouse?

rhhardin said...

Football players need to be taught to share.

Bob Ellison said...

rhhardin said "You grim roaster of epileptic hackee expectoration".

I take offense as an epilectic. Our spit and vomit are excellent roasts, with notes of coffee and rosemary.

BTW, whatever spell-checker Blogger employs highlights "epilectic" as an unknown word. Should we write "spaz"?

Shouting Thomas said...

The gay scam game Althouse endorses has also disintegrated into black comedy (excuse the pun).

What is that gay scam? The public "outings" that teacher thinks are essential to a healthy gay identity. For a child of the 60s, "hypocrisy" is the ultimate sin, no matter how stupid the outcome of dismantling the hypocrisy.

Michael Sam, I've discovered, is not the guaranteed first round NFL draft pick as depicted by his champions. He seems not to have a natural position on the field. Superior athleticism wins at the college level, but everybody is a superior athlete at the pro level.

So Sam is using this gay thing as a negotiating tactic. He might not even be gay. We could have entered a grey territory where hetero people claim to be gay for advantage.

Likewise, sports columnists are openly campaigning for an NBA team to sign up Jason Collins. Tell me another marginal NBA player who gets this treatment from the press.

Illuninati said...

SGT Ted said...
"They are merely willing to hold the black players to the same standard demanded of from white players.

The political statement is "no special rules for you because of your skin color"."

SGT, if this is what it is all about -- everyone playing by the same rules -- then I'm all for it.

Bob Ellison said...

Oh, carp. I misspelled "epileptic". Interesting and embarrassing.

David said...

Underlying "I'll have a conversation with this guy" is the fact that Sams is 270 pounds of very athletic muscle.

I watched the tape of Sams interview at the NFL Combine. Probably 100+ press in the room, all trying to get him to say something headline worthy.

He was fantastic. Twenty one years old and he just gave level headed answers over and over again. No impatience. No false humility, but no claim that he was extra special either. 21 years old! Very impressive.

FullMoon said...

"If someone wants to call me a name I'll have a conversation, with that guy and hopefully it won't happen to someone else."


Umm, he does not mean he is going to "converse". He means he is going to Fk the guy up.

And, recorded replays of the insult so the announcers can help us determine if the word was "nigga", or "nigger" will go a long way towards advanceing our national conversation on race.

jr565 said...

They want to adopt rules, but only for the N word? why not other racial epithets.

David said...

I assume the NFL has already talked to player reps about this rule. They may have some trouble with enforcement if it gets used between two black people in the joking and familiar way it's sometimes used.

That said, the players will figure it out. It's a workplace. These expectations are no different than you would have in any workplace. The players are very highly paid professionals. Most have college degrees and nearly all are intelligent. You don't have to be brilliant, but stupid does not make for success in the NFL.





furious_a said...

"What's the more masculine response to nasty epithets..."

I'd say it's beating the trash-talker on the next play, and the next play after that, and the next play...and so on.

Jim Brown never ran to the referee, he made his hecklers pay on the field.

jr565 said...
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jr565 said...

Althouse wrote:
"Yeah, well, that word actually deserves that status at this point.

And the general rule against "unsportsmanlike conduct" is already there to encompass other words if they operate in the same way."


so then, why not just apply the rule for unsportsmanlike like conduct for all racial epithets? And does that word deserve that status? Above all others?
If you're on the receiving end of a racial epithet, and it's not the N word, I guess you should just suck it up?

Fen said...

Black QB: "Nice block!"
Black TE: "No prob"
Black RB: "You know you're my nigga!"
Black TE: [laughs]

Ref: TWEEEEET! 15 yards.

Fen said...

They want to adopt rules, but only for the N word? why not other racial epithets.

*ahem*

Yah how about that? I think Ann can explain the mentality.

Gary Rosen said...

Dwight Clark (white), famous for "The Catch" from Joe Montana, was once asked what DBs (mostly black) said to him while they were covering him. Answer:

"They talk about my mother a lot".

cyrus83 said...

If the NFL does adopt the rule, it's missing the point. Trash talking is the source of why these things get said, and trying to police trash talk is an impossible task of trying to keep up with all the new euphemisms players will come up with that mean the same thing as the previously banned speech. Plus, unless fans hear what was said, the result will be unexplained 15-yard penalties that will not make sense.

Here's a better idea if the NFL wants to stop this kind of stuff: release the audio on the internet and let Twitter and the media take care of the problem. Apology within 24 hours, announcement of sensitivity training, and unlikely case of repeat offense.

somefeller said...

It's a workplace. These expectations are no different than you would have in any workplace.

This sums up the point well. The NFL is a workplace and this sort of rule wouldn't raise an eyebrow in any other respectable workplace. The shouters, babblers and ranters who are criticizing this should address that point before moving further.

Shouting Thomas said...

This sums up the point well. The NFL is a workplace...

Sums it up if you are a lawyer.

It's pretty damn silly if you're the kind of guy who actually plays football.

Football is a war game played by a bunch of big guys who try to beat the shit out of each other.

Shouting Thomas said...

A better way to say that, somefeller, might be...

This sums up the point very well, if you happen to be a a rent seeking lawyer.

The NFL has been in the cash cow stage of corporate development for some time. Parasites are fighting for position to suck on the udders of the cow.

The rent seeking parasites eventually kill the host, witness American labor unions and the automobile industry.

somefeller said...

It's pretty damn silly if you're the kind of guy who actually plays football.

Very few of the kind of guys who play football do so professionally. I played in high school, but that's not relevant here. Do you have any response to the workplace issue other than little macho assertions and other distractions?

Shouting Thomas said...

@somefeller

I gave a direct answer.

See above.

It's all about rent seeking.

And parasites destroying the host organism.

Renee said...

@David

" He was fantastic. Twenty one years old and he just gave level headed answers over and over again. No impatience. No false humility, but no claim that he was extra special either. 21 years old! Very impressive."

Agreed. Criticism wasn't of him, but the same news outlets retweeting it every three hours for two days "ICYMI" and celebrity group hugs.
Individuals may make a public confirmation to prevent gossip, rumors, or accusations of staying in the closet. NFL players are public figures in which the media inquire about personal lives. So just get it out of the way.

somefeller said...

If that's the best argument you have, you have nothing. Workplaces have rules and rules like this one aren't unique. But if you want to rant about lawyers and how they ruin everything, be my guest.

Shouting Thomas said...

If that's the best argument you have, you have nothing.

You are correct from the standpoint of the rent seeking lawyer.

And, yes, everything must be run for the benefit of the rent seeking lawyer.

That's Althouse's speciality. She's the gate keeper for that system.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Do you think the "I'll have a conversation with that guy" approach is better?"

-- I think that it is a perfectly acceptable solution for the individual player to say "Yeah, I'll talk to someone to sort things out."

The people making the -rules- though have to solve their problems differently. Honestly though, I don't think they need a special rule for this. They just need to be a lot more strict on what is and is not unsportsmanlike conduct.

chickenlittle said...

cyrus83 wrote:

Here's a better idea if the NFL wants to stop this kind of stuff: release the audio on the internet and let Twitter and the media take care of the problem. Apology within 24 hours, announcement of sensitivity training, and unlikely case of repeat offense.

That a great idea, actually.

Grimstarr said...

As I recall, Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles (a white guy) caused a bit of a dustup this past year when he was caught using the N-word OFF the field. If I recall correctly, that infraction was taken care of by some of his teammates during practice the week after the infraction was noted (and by noted, I mean harped on, replayed and reported ad nauseum for the next week).
No officials needed to intervene, no special rules needed to address the matter, just a bunch of men taking care of the problem like they always do in those situations.
If the rule is put into effect, expect the games to slow down considerably.

Marty Keller said...

I am so totally in favor of censorship and an expanding cadre of the Thought Police as long as I get to be in charge. You know, it's just "work place rules," after all.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...
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SomeoneHasToSayIt said...
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Revenant said...

Yeah, well, that word actually deserves that status at this point.

Sorry, no, this is just dumb.

The penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct is already 15 yards. Having a different rule with the exact same penalty for a specific kind of unsportsmanlike conduct makes no sense.

If the NFL wants to crack down, it should levy fines against the teams in question instead.

Todd Grimson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

"Once a single word, phrase or action is carved out for prohibition for one group…"

Yeah, well, that word actually deserves that status at this point.


Bullshit. either it is OK for everyone to say it, or its OK for no one to say it. Anything else is racism, pure and simple.

Gahrie said...

You want to know the real reason why this will never fly? There is no way NFL players are going to give up listening to rap music in the locker room.

rightguy2 said...

This attempt to micro-regulate what is said during an NFL game (which is closest thing civilians can participate in to hand-to-hand combat) is perverse. Taken to its logical extreme, we should proscribe certain words a Marine can say when his buddy gets his head blown off. BTW, I watch a fair number of NFL games and there are entirely too many penalties, already.

mtrobertsattorney said...

What exactly is it that this word connotes that makes it worse or more harmful than "a-hole" or "m-----f-----"?

What is it about this word that it "actually deserves that status at this point"?

Strelnikov said...

Call me when a black player gets this penalty. Like all "hate crimes" this will not apply to the most frequent violators.

EDH said...

somefeller said...
...The NFL is a workplace and this sort of rule wouldn't raise an eyebrow in any other respectable workplace. The shouters, babblers and ranters who are criticizing this should address that point before moving further.

In other workplaces, aren't all racial slurs similarly prohibited?

Isn't it only the NFL that prohibits only one particular slur?