Clay Matthews thinks it will be tough for NFL to enforce N-word penalty

The NFL could consider making the on-field use of the N-word a 15-yard penalty, and Steelers chairman Dan Rooney wanted the word eradicated from the team's locker room last season. On Tuesday, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews spoke about the logistical issues of trying to enforce such a rule.

"I'm not sure if (the rule is) directed towards racial slurs or just foul language but you're teetering on a fine line there, obviously." he told Boomer and Carton. "Where to start, where to stop, but I think this is all an effort to clean up the game. Who knows how this will play out, who knows if this will actually pass, but I know the NFL is doing everything in their power ...  -- especially after the Jonathan Martin case -- ... to make this a family-friendly environment.

"But the reality is, this is a tough sport played by tough men and it's an emotional sport as well. Tempers fly."

Co-host Boomer Esiason asked if the use of the N-word was so prevalent now that the NFL had to address it.

"I'm not sure if the (NFL) is directly referring to white people using the N-word," Matthews said. "I think it's more so just as players using it as a term of endearment or how it's used in pop culture and society these days. And I think they're just trying to clean it up in that regard.

"It's hard for me to comment on that, a guy who obviously doesn't use the word but at the same time, I think the players using it are not understanding the magnitude of it and using it as a term of endearment. And I think that's where the NFL would like it to change."

ESPN's Bomani Jones had a great point about just this on Monday's Highly Questionable.

"How about the fact that the NFL would be sending the message that racial slurs are only okay if they can monetize them like with the Washington Redskins," Jones began. "Or the fact that the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which is pushing this, seems to be doing it in a fairly self-serving manner. We're talking about a word that applies to the constituency that they represent, but we sure do have an openly gay player coming into the NFL for the first time and nobody's talking about that F-word.

"And then there's the fact that this could probably never actually be enforced. It sounds like a great idea, it sounds really noble. It also sounds tired respectability politics and it's problematic."

Matthews was also asked whether a gay player in the Packers' locker room would be a problem.

"No, we don't have a problem," he said. "And I don't think we would because the unique thing about the NFL locker room is that every player can attest to that we don't see race, religion or sexual orientation. We see simply 'Can you help us win ball games? Can you help us produce on the football field?'

"And I think that's what makes it so unique and so much different than PC America. That's why you can have a multitude of players who are black, white, Polynesian, gay -- whatever it may be in this case -- and come together and play for a common goal.

"I really don't think it'll be an issue," Matthews continued. "I think it will be something more for the fans to use as fodder just like they would make fun of any other player."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    Patriots AFC Champs