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Report: NFL feels it can punish racial slurs on field with existing rules

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

An incident involving Trent Williams reportedly helped push for eliminating racial epithets. (USATSI)

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When CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora initially reported the news last weekend that the NFL wanted to ban racial slurs -- specifically the "N-word" -- from the field, there was some skepticism about how the league would manage to do that. Apparently they believe no new ruling is needed to do so.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports the NFL might not even change the rules in order to enforce the usage of racially-charged language on the field. And, based on an examination of the NFL Rule Book, they won't have to.

Section 3, Article 1 (b) of the 2013 NFL Rule Book is a pretty obvious example of how the NFL could enforce the policy. Section 3 is entitled "Unsportsmanlike Conduct." (Emphasis mine.)

Article 1: Prohibited Acts. There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:

(a) Throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made.

(b)Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.

The resulting penalty of all unsportsmanlike conduct fouls is a 15-yard penalty from the "succeeding spot or whatever spot the Referee, after consulting with the crew, deems equitable."

Additionally, an automatic first down is awarded if the foul is on the defense.

And, as noted in the rule book, Article 1 (b) is eligible for disqualification.

The issue, as far as I can tell, is whether or not the league will have officials specify that the language used was a racial epithet when the foul is announced.

It's worth noting, somewhat ironically, that the impetus for the Fritz-Pollard was Redskins lineman Trent Williams engaging in a verbal altercation with umpire Roy Ellison, the latter who was eventually suspended one game without pay for "making a profane and derogatory statement" to Williams.

Williams said that Ellison called him a "garbage ass" and a "disrespectful motherf----r."

Ellison should've penalized Williams and/or ejected him during the game. Beginning next year, he'll probably have the full authority to do so.

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