Fordham Law


Monday Night Football Will Showcase the NFL's Hypocrisy on Hate Speech

Marc Edelman in Forbes, September 09, 2013

Media Source

When Monday Night Football debuts tonight at 7:10 P.M., the NFL’s hypocritical position on racial epithets and hate speech will take center stage.

On one side of the football, the Philadelphia Eagles will feature their fourth-year wide receiver Riley Cooper.  Cooper, who was born in Oklahoma and raised in Central Florida, became infamous when a video surfaced of him using the ‘n-word’ to refer to an African-American security guard who refused to give him backstage access at a Kenny Chesney concert.

Once the video went viral, the Philadelphia Eagles fined Cooper and ordered him to attend counseling.  Thereafter, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly described Cooper’s use of the racial epithet as “obviously wrong, insensitive and unacceptable.”

By contrast, on the other side of the ball, the NFL team from Washington D.C. will wear uniforms that contain a moniker that even Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines as being “usually offensive” to Native-American ethnic groups.  The team will also wear helmets that bear a stereotypical image of Native Americans.

Yet, rather than fine the Washington D.C. team owner, Daniel Snyder, for his use of an ethnic slur and require him to attend the same sensitivity training program as Cooper, Commissioner Goodell instead penned a letter to Congress proclaiming that the team name  “Redskins” actually “stands for strength, courage, pride and respect” rather than for the scalps of murdered Native-Americans, as the term has historically been used.

While it is easy to understand why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is reluctant to tell one of his 32 employers that he must change his team name, the NFL as an organization needs to decide whether it wants to uniformly enter to 21st century and stand up against hate speech, or instead to remain a relic of the American past when both the n-word and the R-word were used without proper rebuke in certain regions of our country.

Political correctness isn’t a ‘sometimes’ option, and as the son of a U.S. Senator, Commissioner Goodell should understand that as well as anyone.

Standing up against Riley Cooper’s use of the n-word, in a bubble, is admirable.

However, any criticism of players for using hate speech runs hollow until Commissioner Goodell also takes a stand against NFL owners that use racially insensitive epithets and imagery as part of their team’s trade dress.

Marc Edelman is an adjunct professor at Fordham Law.