Lions' Scheffler, Delmas use racial slurs as terms of endearment

Tony Scheffler and Louis Delmas' friendship goes back 10 years. (USATSI)
Riley Cooper was caught using the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert and it led to public apologies, four days in counseling, and a remorseful return to the Eagles where, because of injuries, he's currently the team's No. 2 wide receiver.

But for two Lions teammates who also happen to be close friends, racial slurs are considered a term of endearment. Tight end Tony Scheffler, who is white, and safety Louis Delmas, who is black, have known each other for 10 years, going back to their time together at Western Michigan University. Scheffler, then a senior, took the freshman Delmas under his wing. Both are now with Detroit and they remain tight.

How tight? Terry Foster of the Detroit News offers a glimpse into their relationship.

"Hey, cracker," Delmas often says to Scheffler inside the Lions practice facility.

"How's my n-----?" Scheffler responds.

In almost every walk of life, if two guys of different races had this conversation, a fight would promptly ensue. It's as much a commentary on the state of race relations as it is on what it means to live in today's politically correct world. But for Delmas, his friendship with Scheffler transcends the color of their skin, or those historically derogatory words used to describe their differences.

"Me and [Scheffler] have a relationship many people do not have -- both black and white," Delmas said. "I look at him like my brother. I love him to death. He greets me, 'What up, n-----?' But I understand it. So I say, 'What's up, cracker?' But we would never take it outside the building."

Scheffler agreed.

"I treat Louis like a little brother," he said. "He knows my wife and kids. He calls me 'white boy' and 'cracker.' We go back and forth with it and we are both comfortable with each other. I can't say the same with other relationships in the locker room or how other guys would feel about it. So it is a tough dynamic when you are using those types of words. Everybody does not react the same."

Invariably, someone will ask why this back-and-forth between Delmas and Scheffler is OK while Cooper was castigated for his drunken remarks.

"My teammates understand me," Delmas said. "They call me n----- all the time. We have a bond that can't be broken. And the minute you let that bond get outside this organization and you use that word outside this building, then you need to look yourself in the mirror and address it. The way the public blew up the [Cooper] situation, it should be blown up that way because he needs to learn a lesson. You can't say that. You will never see me going outside the building calling someone cracker. You can't do that."

For us, it's a clear distinction -- Delmas' situation with his teammates is 180-degrees different than Cooper's. Whether the nuance of those differences are lost on the population at large -- both blacks and whites -- is another question.

"We know each other so well that it just comes out," Delmas said of the slurs. "And when it comes out, we don't take it personally. We love each other to death. But outside here it is a word that should not be used."

Yep, this is where we post the YouTube clip of Ebony and Ivory. No need to thank us.

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

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