The latest twist in the Trent Williams-Roy Ellison saga comes from an unlikely source.
John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, contends that Williams uttered a racial slur at Ellison, an NFL umpire, after Ellison directed players from both teams to stop using abusive language at each other, according to Mark Maske and Mike Jones of the Washington Post. (Both Williams and Ellison are African-American.)
Wooten’s explanation also confirms that Ellison did indeed direct inappropriate language at Williams in response.
“We haven’t talked to Roy,” Wooten told the Post. “But we are told that the players, black and white, were saying all types of things back and forth during the game. Roy steps in and says, ‘Let’s stop this.’ Trent says to him, ‘F–k you, N-word.’ By all rights, Roy should have thrown his flag there and said, ‘You’re gone.’ But he didn’t. He comes back at Trent with some bad language. Now Roy is wrong, too.”
On Thursday, Williams denied making “any derogatory statement” toward Ellison, according to the Post.
It’s odd that Wooten would get involved in this situation, especially if he hasn’t spoken to Ellison. (According to the Post, the Fritz Pollard Alliance obtained the information from NFL official Byron Boston.) But the Fritz Pollard Alliance has opted to ask players to stop using the “N” word toward each other, regardless of the race of the person using the term.
“A number of game day officials have brought to our attention the disturbing trend of racial epithets, including the ‘N’ word, being commonly used on the field during games,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement. “While we understand and respect that different generations have different means of communicating, we cannot condone on any level the use of the ‘N’ word.”
Wooten separately lamented that modern players don’t realize the true ugliness of the term.
“I want our African-American players to understand what’s going on,” Wooten said. “I don’t use that word ever. I’ve been called the ‘N’ word playing football, particularly in college. We felt it was time to take a stand.”
Wooten’s comments come during the same week Bryant Gumbel argued that no one should use the word.
“Using the ‘N’ word says a lot about you and none of it is good,” Gumbel said to close the 200th episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. “It just advertises your ignorance. . . . Pronouncing it with an ‘A’ after the ‘double G’ in the word because you’re with your boys makes you no more ‘with it’ than the clown who pronounces it with the ‘-er’.”
Charles Barkley offered a different opinion on Thursday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show.
“I use the ‘N’ word,” Barkley said. “I’m gonna continue to use the ‘N’ word, and I get so sick of white people trying to tell me I don’t know the difference when somebody is trying to insult me or I’m using it with my friends in a way where we joke around with it all the time, we talk to each other with it all the time. . . . When me and my friends use the ‘N’ word, it’s not hatred, it’s not hatred at all.”
Right or wrong, Barkley’s not-uncommon attitude toward the term illustrates how hard it will be to wipe the word from the vocabulary of all Americans.