Ryan Clark: Rooney wanted the N-word out of our locker room

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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.

83 responses to “Ryan Clark: Rooney wanted the N-word out of our locker room

  1. Lol what? It seems it’s not the place of a white man to tell a black group from using the N-Word? It’s his facility, his team, and his locker room. How would it not be his place, even if the players didn’t have so much respect for him?

  2. To get rid of the word, you gotta probably eliminate it from pop culture. To do that, you would need to attack it at the root by having record labels not promote musicians that use it or studios to not promote movies that contain it…but pop culture thrives on pushing boundaries so good luck with that! 15 yards probably does the trick on gameday.

  3. As a black man, I hate the fact that an ugly word that should be spoken by nobody has been resurrected, mostly by young blacks who have no real personal appreciation for the word’s history. Count me as one of the people who says that nobody should use the word. And if issuing fines is the action the league decides to take, I’ll say that this is one fine that I don’t have a problem with.

  4. ‘Feel-Good Legislation’. Just like our politicians tjat create new nonsense laws when we already have laws on the books that handle what the politicians want you to believe will cure all social ills.

    Personal Foul equals 15 yards, same as this new rule.

  5. If Ryan Clark and whoever else wants to use that word, I’m all for it. White or Black. Get rid of the word, that way there’s not the built in race card excuse coming.

  6. It may not be the place of white man but if he owns the team it is….. and it’s use is unprofessional…… BUT most of us in this age group, couldnt stop if we tried. Though I use it all the time…… It may be an ugly word but there’s worse things in the world….like taking online calculus lol… As far as calling penalties on it, itll be hard too, because honestly unless you’re pronouncing it clearly with both syllables, hardly anybody can even tell when you even say it. Most time with my friends it sounds like neen-uh, its so natural. U can here it a 1000+ plus per day down here and wont blink an eye. I see no point in the penalties unless their going to start putting regular TV mics closer to the field.

  7. The N-word is equally as ignorant when it is said by ANYONE of ANY color, and there is no place for it in an NFL locker room (or most anywhere else for that matter). I disagree with the notion that black people get a free pass to both say the word, and police others on saying the word. If you don’t agree with it being said by others, than don’t use the word yourself…simple as that.

  8. It’s ok for blacks to call each other that but when a white guy says it it’s racial???
    Double standards big time…
    I agree, stop using it like any cuss word.
    Every one needs to RESPECT each other equally…

  9. I agree with Charles Barkley on this, as a black man I’m not gonna let white people tell me how I’m supposed to feel about that word. I’m fine with my fellow brothaz saying it as a form of endearment, and select honoraries like Richie Incognito.

  10. @bennyb82:
    With all due respect; The “root” of the “N” word is not rap records or Hollywood movies. It’s roots go back a long way farther than that. You’re obviously not the kind of person who would ever study the history of blacks in America, but it would give you a little enlightenment to do so.

  11. “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.”

    Well, if it’s the culture and what these guys have grown up with then why do they cry like little girls when white people throw the word around?


    I’ve been saying this for years. I hate the word. EVERYONE stop using it. Yes I know it’s supposed to desensitize and claim ownership over a slur, but there’s nothing positive about keeping that word alive.

    Remember our history but bury that word once and for all.

  13. Clark says that’s the kind of culture they came from and explains that’s the reason it came back to the locker room. Not because they didn’t respect Rooney.

    Don’t buy it. Rooney signs your check, need to respect that and that’s the culture you need to stay away from.

    Rooney will get rid of some guys because of it and Clark will be one of them. He won’t be back in Steel town.

  14. For all the talk about respecting Mr. Rooney, the Steelers don’t have the kind of leadership who are willing to make sure his wishes were respected.

    If team leaders had shown a little more gravitas … that word disappears from Steeler culture.

  15. There have been a number of people die in the fight for civil rights; black and white. The “n-word” is the main symbol of speech characterizing this struggle. I say we bury this word forever. Everyone needs to forget this word exists and swear never to use it. If nothing else as a monument to Martin Luther King!

  16. 6 Rings. Still no class.

    And the punch line to every joke told by every fan of 31 other franchises. Keep telling us how great you are, Pittsburg. That’s part of the funny.

  17. “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” – this is proof we have made NO progress on this issue.
    When is a case to use the N-word then?

  18. He should have fined the players for using it after telling them not too it’s his money they are his employees, that shows lack of respect

  19. thevikesarebest says:
    Feb 23, 2014 9:27 PM
    And packer fans want vegetables out of their vocabulary.


    Fat Minnesota fans calling fat Green Bay fans fat.

    Funniest stuff in the world.

  20. No one owns the “N” word but if African Americans don’t want the white man to use it but still use it themselves, it’s called a double standard. It has ugly roots but black culture believes it’s a term of endearment. I honestly think the word will be used for many years to come.

  21. And the other 31 teams, as well as every other sport, don’t pretend that your favorite team doesn’t use the word. Ryan Clark needs to keep his mouth shut instead of the constant auditioning for sportscaster at every time a mic appears in front of him.

  22. Just going back to it simply because “it’s the culture”? Changing the culture has to start somewhere. Don’t accept it anymore & it won’t be the culture.

  23. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Mr. Rooney is correct and thinking clearly on his position regarding this racial slur. An outrage cannot be summoned up or be carried out when a white wr for The Eagles utters it, only to then have its meaning, history and intent tolerated because, as Clark comments, “This is what these guys have grown up with.” If THIS is the kind of reasoning that is going to apply when black players use this word, then the next white person who utters it can simply say something like he and all his buddies have grown up using this word as well. Wasn’t Jackie Robinson kept out of MLB because “whites only” was what all those guys in the game “grew up with?” No, Mr. Rooney is dead right in his reasoning, REGARDLESS of anyone’s color.

  24. Let’s all stop pretending. Any use of this word is straight up ignorant. Doesn’t matter who is using it and in what context. Period, end of story.

  25. In the land of “free speech”, like gun ownership, words will NEVER be legislated out of usage. Those who use it will continue to suffer the consequences of whomever hears it. Some will applaud it, others will hate it. Penalizing the usage will NOT eradicate it.

  26. There’s a wide variety of opinions and arguments about whether to use the word or not…and then there’s a wide swath of people who’ve never looked into the history or tuned into the debate. I’m tired of other white people complaining about the “double-standard” of the “N-word”. There’s not a national black committee that looks into the use of the N-word. Black people are not a single-minded monolith. Why do you want in on it so bad? Just because it’s the one thing as whites you can’t have in society?

    I appreciate this and all else Rooney’s done, but it can hardly be a model for popular society. You can’t legislate civil behavior towards race. That’s why the Emancipation Proclamation, Brown v Board, and the Civil & Voting Rights Acts didn’t immediately transform racial attitudes and has yet to make us some colorblind pipe dream utopia.

  27. The NFL isn’t exactly a force for good in the world, other then insomuch as entertainment is a good thing. If this rule was instated and reduced that ridiculous and trashy habit among segments of black culture of using the N word constantly, I would be totally okay with that. And the NFL would have accomplished something truly meaningful.
    As far as confronting racist language though, obviously getting rid of the Redskins name is the most appropriate place to start.

  28. Interesting that Dan Rooney used Ike Taylor as the team leader to try to influence the rest of the locker room. There are other Steeler players with more prominent careers, but this says how highly Rooney regards Taylor as a leader.
    While many in the media fixate on the performance metrics of each player at the NFL Combine at this time of year, it is significant that Rooney understands leadership and influence and understands who has it.

  29. The actual answer is, but you have to have at least a little bit of an advanced mind to understand, that the opposite action is needed.

    Lenny Bruce once opined that if everyone said it 10 times a day every day, the word would just go away. Think of all the once former swear words that are used on broadcast tv nowadays because they’re used so much they’re no longer seen as swear words.

    If you hide it, it’s still taboo. It’s just a choice to not engage in the taboo. The taboo should go away however. Shouldn’t the idea be to have it erased from existence?

    If you choose to not say it, it still has meaning however. It’s the idea that it MUST have a meaning is what needs to go away, not the actual letters and syllables as pronounced.

    The idea is to collectively decide it has no meaning. Not avoidance. Then it goes away, used or not.

    The bad news is there are far too many who don’t want it to go away because there is currency in it. If used against, one can gain. You can use it to get your enemies fired at work, you can use it to sue, you can use it as a lie to achieve any number of selfish gains, you can use it as a tool for false accusation to get out of trouble you yourself caused, it can be used as a lie against police, you can use it for sympathy to be used for further gain as best seen where politics meets racial usery. In that last regard the word is absolute gold. Go away? No it never will. It holds too much sick value.

    And for some there’s money in it.

    And for media, there’s… opportunity. A story. Headlines. Getting your name out there. Web site hits. As an aside, it’s why many people believe media are some of the worst racists.

    That’s why it will never go away, because there will never be enough that decide a word has no actual meaning. So it will always live on. For some, it MUST exist.

  30. Ryan Clark,it’s not a cultural thing. I’m fairly certain we didn’t sit around at the table and say that “Thou shall call each other n___”,and not every one of us has grown up with it. I cringe when I hear it in public because I see the discomfort on everyone else’s face. But some people insist on perpetuating it because they feel like he does. Hats off to Mr. Rooney for letting his employees know his policy. For someone who claims that the players respect the man,they sure didn’t prove it seeing that the ban lasted a day.

  31. I’m just gonna say it. It’s embarrassing that a white man has the balls to say to not to use it. The black community could use leaders like him. It’s also embarrassing that blacks use the word, then get mad when other races say it. Just stop using it. You look like fools.

  32. The “double standard” and “you can’t have it both ways” line is complete bull. Its basically saying “If white people can’t use the word or dictate/have power over the word, then it can’t be used by blacks”. The root of the word (blank)er is not being used as a term of endearment, I promise you that. Black Americans are the only sub-group of Americans without their own native language. To take a word that was created for the sole purpose of expressing hateful/derogatory feelings towards a race and turn it into a word that doesn’t have that same power over that individual is wrong? Im not saying I condone the repeated use or glorification of the word, but it wouldn’t be an issue if white Americans didn’t feel left out in not being able to use it. Nobody gets bent of of shape when people use “terms of endearment” in a non-english language. In the context of using the word in a business setting, no, you should respect your employers rules and regs, but you can’t police the conversations of grown men, thats ridiculous.

  33. Here come the word police. Now if only they could invent a way to read thought, the control would be complete.

    I feel the need to remind folks of the old adage – Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. But that was for a stronger generation, not today’s emasculated man.

  34. Don’t give me that crap about “it’s not a white man’s place to say that to a black man”…

    Welcome to the “workplace” my friend, that word, and any other derogatory and demeaning term should be outlawed. I suppose then that heterosexual owners and management members cannot engage in discussions to outlaw discriminatory comments about gay athletes too??? It’s common sense, and believe it or not, it’s simply the respectful thing to do.

    That said, I’m not a black man, but I understand that culture in terms of the use of that word in that community, but it’s impossible to police when some folks are permitted to use it and some are not, especially when it’s never really about the “word” itself, it’s more about the context of how it’s used, but let’s drop the CRAP that a “white man” cannot be a part of that discussion because to me, that’s just another passive-aggressive manner of racism. ALL RACES need to engage in this discussion folks. Such a frustrating topic to me, we are all equal, but there are some who live to push this train, and look for any oportunity to continue DRAWING THE LINE IN THE SAND – i.e. Michael Wilbon

    That said, I do think it’s in the best interest of any team that does this to meet with its players, too thoroughly discuss it and try to make the players see where management is coming from…don’t just send out a memo, that’s a mistake. You really need player buy-in on this and you’re more likely to get that if players are appoached in a respectful and meaningful manner.

  35. Really dude? It’s Mr. Rooney’s business, the Steelers either abide by his rules or it’s adios amigos! If you want to talk about ending racism start with yourself.

  36. I believe the standard for the type of language used on the football field should be established by a team’s head coach or the owner…not some official with a flag in his pocket.

    The idea that NFL officials are now going to become the “word police” for the NFL is a joke. I would rather see the owners themselves and the coaches handle this conduct, rather than NFL officials.

    I commend Dan Rooney for trying…

  37. black people use the n-word to take it’s power away from the white people using the word.

    As for all those who think that someone owning a team should tell people how to speak to one another – well that’s just sad.

  38. It’s an absurd request — it basically amounts to no music on the property which simply isn’t going to work.

    I was listening to a conversation once where someone alluded to a slur against Asians and one person didn’t know the word was a slur. They’d never heard it before. They never had cause to seek out those racial slurs because they aren’t racist and they apparently were never around anyone who used them.

    Some people might berate this person for being ignorant about history and drop some internment/railroad comments to prove how “enlightened” they are.

    I thought it was a good thing. She was young and yeah a little ignorant (which is par for the course — we’ve all been there) but I think it’s fantastic that to her and her group of friends that form of racism was dead. Is it dead everywhere? Of course not. But it’s a start that they didn’t even know the slurs.

    My point is … the future is NOT us all having to think about which words we use and censoring ourselves. The future is the word having no power left and nobody caring one way or the other.

    You may not like it and I’m sure you’ll miss the opportunity to “prove” how superior you are in your knowledge of history … but ironically if you don’t realize that this will happen it means you are ignorant of how history works with many other racial slurs. It won’t be different in this instance.

    Might take a little longer but we’ll get there … and we’ll do it without preachy BS. If people don’t realize what hip-hop culture (with all its n bombs) has done to speed up this process then we need to have a discussion about more recent history with you.

    I don’t need Rooney to tell me what to say or think. I know I’m good … one word one way or the other isn’t going to change anything for me or my friends. We’ll be just fine. All the hate and death and ridiculous racist nonsense … it’s dead to us. It’s not dead to a lot of people I know … but we can’t worry about those people. They’ll be dead soon.

    You can berate us for “not knowing history” all you like while we just get on with living our lives together in peace and leading by example. Freaking out about an “n word” here and there is not on our agenda. You all look ridiculous to us worrying about this crap … we’ve moved on.

    I know it bothers my parents and grandparents especially because of the immense struggles they endured … I understand why it does … that said I’m sorry but we aren’t going to change … but we’ll be okay.

  39. It’s not the word that is offensive. It’s the intended meaning behind it. The hateful mindset of some is the issue not the word itself. People can’t easily change thoughts so they go after the use of the word. What’s worse: an actual racist that never uses that word or a non-racist person that does use it?

  40. It’s a double standard for it to be acceptable for one group of people to use it and totally unacceptable for another group to use it. The culture thing is a total BS excuse. The N word shouldn’t be in anyone’s vernacular, period.

  41. I’m a black man offended by white people telling black people they can’t use the word.

    The excuse that if blacks say it whites must be allowed to also is outrageous. There is no equivalency here, context is key. A white using it is simply an entirely different deal than a black using it, sorry.

    I worked with Polish people who called themselves “polacks” but I never have nor will do that.

    I know girls who call each other the B word. I am not compelled to do that either.

    I think what white people should do is patrol their own use of the word and not be concerned with black people using the word.

  42. I really scoff at the idea that a white man shouldn’t tell black guys not to use the N word. As if it has a rich cultural history they are trying to preserve.

  43. I watched a big chunk of that Outside the Lines program on Sunday during the Daytona 500 rain delay. I turned to another channel when Jason Whitlock started talking, since he is every bit as racist as any KKK member has ever been.

    I am a white man married to a black woman. I got in boiling-hot water one time with a few of my in-laws for using the word “Negro.” This same logic applied – they thought it was wrong for me to say the word, but OK for them.

    We can argue about culture, double-standard, and any other way to describe this issue, but it all boils down to this: If any one ethnicity can use a term to describe itself while being forbidden by all other ethnicities, then we are never going to get to the point where race truly doesn’t matter. As long as it’s OK for 1 race to use a word and it’s racist for anyone else to use it, we will continue to judge each other by the color of our skin, and not the content of our character.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life in an effort to eliminate racial judgment. How about everyone eliminating the use of any word that is considered a slur so his dream can become reality?

  44. Take care of it at seminars in training camp and in the front offices! Fine guys in the wallet! There’s no use for the N word! IMO

  45. “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.”

    “Well, if it’s the culture and what these guys have grown up with then why do they cry like little girls when white people throw the word around?”

    Ummmm, maybe because white people don’t exactly have a good or positive history of throwing that word around?

  46. So if someone has a problem with a white person telling a black person they can’t use that word, then how the heck are white refs going to flag black players when they use it? Is that not the same as telling them they cant use it?

  47. Regardless of color, any time I hear someone use the “N-word”, I know immediately that they’re an ignorant person.

  48. My opinion the word is used as a crutch or an advantage. I challenge that some people don’t want it to go away because they may lose that crutch to stand with.

    You wronged me so I need this,,,,,,or I get this,,,,,,,or you owe me this.

    Your Great Grandfather, Your Grandfather and many cases dad got screwed but in this brave new world you need to sack up and start moving forward.

    Stop using the word and it will go away. If you choose to use it don’t complain when you hear it being said.

  49. I just don’t understand this who concept of the N-word being used as a term of endearment? I mean Hispanics don’t go around calling each other Spics and Italians don’t go around calling each other guinea or Irish calling each other Micks as terms of love.

    If it’s a derogatory word, it’s a derogatory word no matter how much you try to make it into something else.

    Just stop using it!!

  50. everyone saying its a double standard..I say SOOOO what..i think blacks ancestors paid for that double standard many many years ago..get over it the word isnt going anywhere just like the hundereds of other thousands of words in the dictionary.

    Ps my white friends say it all the time, i have no problem..its in the context

  51. This kind of garbage is what happens when you start trying to police speech.

    The use of the N-word isn’t exactly one of our nation’s biggest problems, or one of the NFL’s biggest problems. I don’t like the word either, nor do I like the b-word the wh-word that also get tossed around in similar manners throughout pop-culture.

    But the answer is not to police speech, but to start better out of those people who are accustomed to using this language.

    You want to stop it in the NFL? You’re going to have to stop it in pop-culture first; that’s the birth-place of this language style. Otherwise, you’re just tilting at windmills.

  52. The PC police should go back into its hole on this topic. As long as record companies that pay artists who have a great deal of cultural influence on young people such as 50, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z and others this word is here to stay. It’s funny how during black history month the use of the N Word gets its annual review.

  53. When Dan Rooney says some of his best friends are black, he really means it. He’s free to use the word now.

  54. If the NFL fines somebody for it they are not going to want the bad pub. They can make the word go away in the locker room and on the field. It’s just going to take players having to pay for the mistake a few times in some cases. It will depend on how bad the NFL really wants it gone.

  55. I think that NFL players should be allowed to say whatever they want. This is America and if you want to do something that’s within in the law you have the right to do it.

  56. From a Browns fan to the Steelers organization: “One of, if not the best NFL franchises in the league. Can only hope the front office of the NFL and other franchises follow suit.” And the truth is, the recording labels,FCC, and civil rights organizations all have a responsibility that was dropped to make money.

  57. I respect Mr. Rooney tremendously and agree its his team and he has earned the right to make his edict known.

    That being said, if the NFL institutes a penalty for language and a flag thrown decides a game – ALL OF US are going to be outraged.

    That’s not deciding the game between the lines.

  58. I don’t think Rooney asking his players not to use the word has any racist connotations. He has a political image he has to uphold. He was the American Ambassador to Ireland. Its not professional for his team ie, the winning-est team in the Super Bowl era, to speak that way. Think of it like Obama asking his employess to not speak that way at the workplace, loll. Its not so much a matter of saying it, its tame and place.

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