JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Fritz Pollard Alliance’s call for NFL players to stop using the N-word on the field or face possible ejection or a fine is an admirable goal, but several Jaguars players said Friday that they don’t believe it’s a big issue.
In fact, nearly all of the players interviewed said they’ve rarely heard the word used on the field.
"When we’re on the field I’m too focused, worried about my job," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "It’s not something that I’ve always been worried about or even noticed, but obviously it’s not a word that should be thrown around."
The Fritz Pollard Alliance -- an organization made up of coaches, front office, scouting and game day officials dedicated to promoting diversity and equal opportunities in the NFL -- said it released a statement on Thursday to current, former and future NFL players asking them to stop using the N-word on the field.
The statement said that former black players put up with abuse from the stands and in public and that the continued use of the N-word is an affront to what they endured: “Indeed, the N-word was the last word that countless blacks across the country -- in large cities and small towns -- heard before being killed in racist attacks. To use it so loosely now is a disgrace.”
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said he has rarely encountered the word on the field but added that it is part of some players’ lexicon.
"I don’t think most guys say it, but it’s hard to tell guys they can’t do something when that’s how they grew up," Jones-Drew said. "If you grew up hearing that and saying that, then that’s what’s going to happen."
Defensive end Ryan Davis said it would be too tough to police the use of the N-word because it is something that’s used on the field. Banning any kind of words on the field is a bad idea, he said.
"Even though the N-word is deemed as a bad word, a lot of people still say it," Davis said. "I’m guilty of it myself sometimes. If they do happen to ban that word, I think a lot players may be getting ejected because sometimes it can become like second nature. You can just say it, not even meaning anything bad, and it just comes out and it’ll just be a bad thing if they try to end up banning that word."
Davis said he’s never had anyone call him the N-word on the field.
"Coming from an HBCU [historically black college and university] I haven’t even experienced anybody ever trying to come at me like that or just calling me the N-word just to get on my nerves," he said. “That’s not really a big issue I see between the lines and if it is, then most of the times that player, he has to face his own teammates at the same time if he says that to another person.
"You don’t hear it a lot on the field and you don’t hear it negatively a lot on the field, either. A person that’s not black is not going to come out and call me an N-word or anything like that. It’s not really a problem on the field. If they try to ban it, they’re creating a problem.”
If a rule banning the word did get implemented, running back/kick returner Jordan Todman said he’d rather see players get warned first instead of an immediate ejection. But he added that he’s rarely heard it on the field.
"I don’t think it’s a problem," he said. "On the field it’s loud [and] there’s a lot of things going on. That’s the least of your worries with somebody calling you a name."