Dave Sheinin and Krissah Thompson, THE WASHINGTON POST
(The Washington Post)—This season, the National Football League is attempting the impossible, a reasoned but dubious mission that has already tripped up an institution as venerable as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, municipalities as large as New York City and countless parents of teenagers across the land. The goal: banning the n-word within the chalk-lined borders of its purview.
As with the previous attempts, the NFL’s “zero tolerance” policy — which gives referees leeway to issue a 15-yard penalty for a first offense and ejection for a second — comes with good intentions: to establish a field of play free of the most racially charged word in American history.
But like the others, it is almost certainly doomed to fail; to be ignored, at best — or mocked and flouted, at worst.
If there is one thing certain about the modern n-word — a shifty organism that has managed to survive on these shores for hundreds of years by lurking in dark corners, altering its form, splitting off into a second specimen and constantly seeking out new hosts, all the while retaining its basic and vile DNA — it is that it defies black-and-white interpretations and hard-and-fast rules.