Michael Wilbon on ‘Redskins’ and the N-word

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Not long after news came out that the NFL was considering penalizing players for on-field use of the N-word, critics of the Redskins name attempted to link the two issues.

That attempt likely got its widest hearing Monday evening on ESPN’s “PTI,” when Michael Wilbon explicitly linked the two topics.

“I’ve got a real problem with this. … I’ve got a big problem with this,” Wilbon said, speaking of penalizing N-word usage. “So you’re gonna have a league with no black owners and a white commissioner — middle-aged and advanced-aged white men — say to black players, mostly — because that’s what we’re talking about — you can’t use the N-word on the field of play, or we’re gonna penalize you. I’ve got a massive problem with that. I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I know there are black men of the same age – John Wooten [of the Fritz Pollard Alliance] being one of them — who say no, you’ve got to take this word out of the workplace. I understand that. But I don’t want it enforced like this.”

Tony Kornheiser then said that, while he’s conflicted on the issue, the N-word has historically been so defamatory that he could understand trying to eradicate it.

“It’s defaming in the context in which you saw it [in historical movies],” Wilbon said. “It is not defaming in the context in which I and many others use it every day. Not music and art; just language, just talk. I’m not a child of hip-hop; I use it every day with somebody else who uses it. And I understand people who don’t want to use it, I respect that. This is difficult, this is complicated. And the NFL, which won’t even stand up — Roger Goodell doesn’t have the guts to stand up and say Redskin is an offensive name. So he wants to take [the N-word] out of play, but he won’t take Redskin out of play? How gutless is that? What kind of signal are you sending? You act like Redskin is a term of endearment, which has been his position so far.”

Luckily, this is an opinion that won’t make anyone angry.

The NFL is considering implementing a 15-yard penalty for the use of a discriminatory racial slur during a game. The Post Sports Live crew discusses whether the penalty is better policed on the field or in the locker room. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · February 25

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