GREEN BAY – In 16 NFL seasons, Charles Woodson has never once heard a white player use the N-word to him. But he’s heard it plenty of times among black players, and he hinted that he’s even used it himself.
For that reason, the former Green Bay Packers defensive standout and current Oakland Raiders safety said Thursday that he doesn’t believe the NFL should start doling out 15-yard penalties to players who use the word, as the league is reportedly considering doing.
“It really only affects one group, and that’s the black players,” Woodson said during an interview on Green & Gold Today on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com. “And so in that sense, that’s definitely unfair.
“If you think about the war on drugs or marijuana, if you look at that, black players are disproportionately targeted when it comes to those certain areas. To me, this is a reflection of that. If you have one group of players on the field that use the N-word because they’ve used it all their lives, then you’re only targeting one specific group of players. And so we, in a sense, become criminalized for using a word that all of us between ourselves, we use that word.
“I don’t think you’re going to be able to do that. You can’t just give one group of players 15-yard penalties in the game, which is going to hurt your team, for just using a word.”
When asked if a white player who uses the word in a racist, hateful manner deserved to be penalized for doing so, Woodson replied: “I guess if you look at it that way, but I guess I haven’t heard of too many instances on the football field NFL-wise where a white guy has used that word on the field. I’ve never [heard it] in the NFL. In high school [I did], but I never heard of a white guy in the NFL calling a black player the N-word. I don’t really see it as an issue from that sense.
“As far as black players talking to black players, you probably hear it all the time. That’s what I’m saying. Its’ going to be one group that’s going to be targeted with this rule. All of a sudden you’re getting penalties on the field, and it’s only black guys getting penalties. I don’t think you should enforce that rule.”
Meanwhile, Woodson said he believed that most NFL players would accept an openly gay player in their locker rooms, as Missouri defensive end Michael Sam preps for the NFL Draft and the possibility of being the league’s first openly-gay player.
“You’ve heard President Obama talking about gay rights and his evolution on that topic. I think that’s kind of what everybody’s going through at this point in time with that situation,” Woodson said. “There’s an evolution with your knowledge of that particular topic. I think most players, if you asked them 10 years ago how they felt about it, they’d probably have a totally different answer than what they would be giving now.
“I think now people are much more accepting and the bottom line is, everybody is on a particular team for one reason, and that’s to win a championship. And if you bring a guy on your team regardless of who he is or who he likes, you want to know, ‘Did they bring someone in who can play the game?’ And, ‘Can this person help us win?’ I think that’s really the sentiment of most guys around the league.
“I think there are going to be batches of guys who aren’t happy with having a gay player on their team, but that’s their own issue. For the most part, I think guys are going to be accepting of that situation and not worry about it too much. I think what we have to do, we have to get past the shock of it and get to the point where it doesn’t matter. You don’t ask a guy about his sexual orientation or who he likes or who he dates and just accept everybody as a football player if they’re on your team. Because really, it’s nobody’s business. And the sooner we get past that, the better.”
Return to: Jason Wilde Blog