The NFL is considering throwing penalty flags on players who use the N-word on the field. At least one team owner is also telling players he doesn’t want them using the N-word at the team facility.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark said on ESPN on Sunday that Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney made it known last season that he didn’t want to hear the N-word in the locker room, either spoken by members of the team or in music played in the locker room.
“Mr. Rooney actually talked to Ike Taylor about it this season. Ike and Mr. Rooney have a very good relationship,” Clark said. “He told Ike, ‘I don’t want you guys using that word.’”
Although in some cases it might not seem like a white man’s place to tell a mostly black group of men not to use the N-word, Clark said that there’s so much respect among the players for Rooney, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland whose commitment to diversity is reflected in the Rooney Rule that bears his name, that Clark said the black players on the team were willing to comply.
“Ike went around to specific people and said, ‘Listen, this is what Mr. Rooney told me.’ He’s the ambassador. We call him Old Man Rooney. He has a lot of respect, and because of the way he has treated us as players, as black athletes, also treated Coach Tomlin as a black coach, you know it’s coming from a place of love,” Clark said.
However, Clark said that while players initially respected Rooney’s request, it didn’t last.
“You stopped hearing it immediately that day,” Clark said. “But after a while it came back because it’s the culture. After a while it comes back because this is what these guys have grown up with.”
If the NFL is serious about stopping players from using the N-word, the league may find exactly what Clark described: It sounds like a good idea in theory, but it’s easier said than done.