Player language has been a hot topic in the NFL within the last year, and the league is considering a rule that would penalize players for using the N-word on the field during games.
The Fritz-Pollard Alliance, a group that monitors racial diversity in the NFL, is pushing for implementation of a rule that would issue a 15-yard penalty for using the word. General Manager Ozzie Newsome is a member of the league’s competition committee, and he acknowledged during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine that the rule is in on the table.
“We did talk about it I’m sure you saw the Fritz Pollard Alliance came out very strong with a message that the league needs to do something about the language on the field,” Newsome said. “We did discuss it the past three days.”
The NFL is focused on cleaning up some of the inflammatory player language that is often commonplace on the field and in locker rooms. The issue has gained steam in recent months after the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, where use of the N-word between teammates was a significant issue.
Part of the challenge with instituting the rule is that the NFL would then have to consider penalties for other foul language such a homophobic slurs.
"With any rule that we put into play we have to look at it from A to Z and find out what are the unintended consequences as well as the consequences,” Newsome said. "I don't want to get in front of what the competition committee talked about the past three days, but we did talk about race and gender.”
Policing the language on the field can be challenging, but Newsome pointed out that officiating crews could rely on the microphones already in place that capture interactions between players.
“As it was stated in our meeting there are [microphones] everywhere, so if something is being said it's probably going to be captured somewhere,” Newsome said. “It would be an opportunity to get it verified if we have to."
The league’s competition committee met at the combine last week, and has additional meetings beginning this Friday in Naples, Fla. Any new rule would have to be approved by the owners at the annual meetings, which will take place next month in Orlando.
“We will go down to Naples starting next Friday and spend more time talking about it,” Newsome said. “We had some officials in our meeting, that is actually out on the field and hears the language, so he we will be able to put that all together and if there's a need to, we will present something to our owners in Orlando.”