Wooten said that, according to the account given to the Fritz Pollard Alliance of the Williams-Ellison incident, Williams directed profanity and a racial slur at Ellison during the game in Philadelphia after Ellison intervened to attempt to stop players from both teams from using abusive language at each other. Ellison responded with profanity aimed at Williams, Wooten said. Williams, who previously accused Ellison of cursing at him during the game, denied using a slur. Both Williams and Ellison are African American.
Here is the statement released by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, attributed to Wooten and Harry Carson, the group’s executive director:
“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. As former players (along with thousands of others) who have worked hard in different eras of the game to leave proud legacies for those who follow us, we are appalled and extremely disappointed to learn that the worst and most derogatory word ever spoken in our country is being used during games as well as casually in the locker room.
“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. We understand the history of the game and especially the significance of the re-integration of the National Football League in 1946 when many who opposed blacks playing in the league used the same racial epithets from the stands. Men like Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Bill Willis, and Marion Motley bravely withstood the indignity of the ‘N’ word during a time when black men were beaten and even hung simply because of the color of their skin. Indeed, the ‘N’ word was the last word that countless blacks across the country — in large cities and small towns — heard before being killed in racist attacks. To use it so loosely now is a disgrace.
“We are not asking players to point fingers or to report who said what when. We are simply asking that you respect the dignity of your teammates, fellow players, officials, coaches, fans, and yourselves. Most importantly, we ask that you respect every man who has worn the uniform but especially those men who helped make the National Football League what it is today and have made it possible for you to follow in their footsteps. Refusing to use the ‘N’ word will show that respect.
“Simply put, from this day forward please choose to not use the ‘N’ word. Period! Do not take the position that you are not bothered by the word. If you tolerate the language being used casually now, at some point in the future, either as a current or former player, you may hear it directed at you. How do you think you will respond? As we approach Thanksgiving, please have the respect and dignity to stand and represent the many thousands of people who fought and died so that you could have the opportunity you have today.
“We must eliminate the use of this this horrible word in our wonderful game. Please join us to help make the NFL a great place to work and play.”
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Mike Wise: A word that just shouldn’t be used