NFL Penalizes N-Word in Games, Promotes It in Halftime Show

The National Football League (NFL), under the tutelage of Commissioner Roger Goodell, is ever so proud of its record combating racism. Two years ago, Goodell said, “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.” 

To that end, he approved such things this season as the singing of the black national anthem at games, end zone inscriptions that read “End Racism,” and a host of anti-racist messages printed on the players’ apparel. 

What about the behavior of the players? After all, it is widely known that the n-word is commonly used by black football players. About ten years ago this became a burning issue, so in 2014 the NFL told game officials to penalize players who used the word on the field. 

At that time Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, now with Tampa Bay, objected, saying, “It’s an atrocious idea….It’s in the locker room and on the field at all times. I hear it almost every series out there on the field.” Since that time, the NFL has cracked down even more. 

Section 3 of the current NFL Rulebook is titled, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct.” The second listing in Article 1 prohibits “Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.” 


But is this all a PR stunt? It sure looks this way. 

For example, why is the NFL showcasing foul-mouthed singers — who specialize in using the n-word — during its halftime festivities this Sunday?

Five musical celebrities will be featured on Super Bowl Sunday. Two of them, Mary J. Blige and Eminem, are not known to drop the n-word. But three of them are: Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg. In addition, their promiscuous use of vulgarities, which qualify as “abusive” or “insulting” language, is well-known. Here is a sample.

One of Dr. Dre’s songs is called, “A N*gga Witta Gun.” One of the lyrics says, “You’re a motherf****** liar, n*gga.” Another says, “Listen up, n*gga, you know Lucifer?”

He has a song, “Bitch N*ggaz,” which goes like this: “Bitch n*ggas, Bitch n*ggas, Bitch-ass n*ggas.” There is also, “I meet more bitch n*ggas than hoes, look here.” Another favorite line is, “These n*ggas don’t know what the f*** is going on.” He cites the “N” word 39 times. 

“The Day The N*ggaz Took Over” features, “I got my finger on the trigger, some n*ggas wonder why, But living in the city, it’s do or die.” Then there is this gem: “How many n*ggas are ready to loot?”

Kendrick Lamar has a song titled, “F*** Your Ethnicity,” which, not surprisingly, includes the line, “F*** your ethnicity, n*gga.” He says it again, just in case the listeners missed it the first time.

In his song, “The Art of Peer Pressure,” Lamar sings about “Me and my n*ggas four deep in a white Toyota,” noting that “Hood n*ggas with bad intentions” can be a problem. He drops the “N” word 25 times.

There are 21 uses of the “N” word in “m.A.A.d City.” Here’s a classic: “Seen a light-skinned n*gga with his brains blown out.” 

Snoop Dogg has a lovely song called, “My F**kin House,” wherein he sings, “This is my mother’s f**kin’ house n*gga.” 

Why is NFL Commissioner Goodell promoting those who love the n-word during the Super Bowl halftime show? Wasn’t he supposed to be discouraging the use of it? What message does he think will stick with young viewers? The one that says the NFL prohibits the n-word? Or the one which says the NFL sanctions its usage? 

Goodell can’t have it both ways. Either the n-word and the f-word are verboten, or they are welcome. If he is making an exception for entertainers, then he can’t be taken seriously. Is it the big bucks garnered from halftime commercials that override your interest in civility, Mr. Goodell? If so, what does that make you?

Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of nine books and many articles.


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