As the NFL's competition committee soon considers a rule that would penalize players for using the N-word on the field, one veteran believes it will be difficult for the league to police the use of the racial slur.
"I think it's going to be really tough to legislate this rule, to find a way to penalize everyone who uses this word," Ryan Clark, a Pittsburgh Steelers safety who's spent 12 years in the league, told ESPN's Bob Ley during an "Outside The Lines" special report. "And it's not going to be white players using it toward black players. Most of the time you hear it, it's black players using the word."
The OTL broadcast aired Sunday night, just days after the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league to establish a rule that would call for a 15-yard penalty for players who use the N-word on the field.
John Wooten, the head of the alliance, anticipates that the competition committee will enact the rule at the owners' meeting in late March.
"I will be totally shocked if the competition committee does not uphold us on what we're trying to do," Wooten said, according to CBSSports.com.
OTL examined the use of the N-word across generations and the black and white cultures, and tapped into the ongoing controversy in Miami. Last week investigator Ted Wells, who was hired by the league to examine the Dolphins' workplace environment, concluded that offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was subjected to "a pattern of harassment" that included racial slurs from teammate Richie Incognito.
The scandal, which came to light in November, fueled months of debate over locker room etiquette and language and whether the N-word is an acceptable term of endearment among teammates within the culture of football (Martin is black, Incognito is white).
Clark, who is black, said Sunday that he thinks Incognito was "empowered to use the word."
"If I'm sitting at a table with Incognito, and he speaks to Jonathan Martin and used the N-word, I'm not stepping in to save Jonathan Martin or to defend him. I'm stepping in because I'm offended that you even fixed your mouth to say it," Clark said.
While some portrayed the Dolphins' locker room as unmanaged and lacking leadership, Clark by comparison said the Steelers' locker room is a place of mutual respect and even restraint, where team owner Dan Rooney even has tried to discourage the playing of rap music.
"He told [teammate Ike Taylor], I don't want you guys listening to that music. I don't want you guys using that word," Clark recounted. "And his reason behind it was that people fought against people using that word. People felt like that word was demeaning. There were terrible acts done by men using that word and by people using that word."
Clark said that Taylor had the music shut off because of Rooney.
"Guys accepted it. It wasn't like that you stopped hearing the music totally. You stopped hearing it that day," Clark said. "But it came back. That's the culture. That's what these guys have grown up with."
In the OTL broadcast, basketball's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Chauncey Billups, football's Joe Greene and soccer's Brianna Scurry talked about their feelings about the N-word and answered questions from high school students in New Jersey about who can and can't use the word.