Pittsburgh Steelers: Ozzie Newsome

Clark against penalizing use of N-word

February, 26, 2014

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Clark said he does not use the N-word, but the Pittsburgh Steelers free safety is not in favor of policing it during games.

Clark said he would have a "problem" with how the rule is enforced if NFL owners voted in favor of penalizing the N-word next month following a recommendation from the league's competition committee.

The competition committee, of which Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a member, has discussed a rule proposal that would penalize use of the highly charged word.

"The N-word is used in so many ways that we as black people have learned to make it a term of endearment, (and) even though I don’t necessarily agree it’s a term of endearment, if it’s used in that way and a white referee comes in and says 'I’m throwing a flag because I heard you use the N-word, I would absolutely lose it on the field. I would go nuts.'" Clark said Wednesday on ESPN’s Mike & Mike show. “And I think a black coach would also be pretty upset if he got a 15-yard penalty because of two of his teammates were talking to each other and they threw a flag.”

John Wooten, who heads the Fritz-Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity in the NFL, has pushed for a no-tolerance policy of the N-word. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last week at the NFL scouting combine that the competition committee will further discuss how penalizing players during games could discourage the use of the word.

The problem, Clark said, is that the “football field is a workplace like no other.”

“When you’re inside of a building and you’re representing an employer, which for me would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, I look at that as the workplace,” Clark said. “I look at that where things can be policed, where things can be legislated because you’re working for an owner. When you’re out there on the field it’s not a work place anymore. It’s not civil.”

Clark recounted a story in which Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney, long a champion of diversity in the NFL, heard some of Pittsburgh’s players using the N-word in the locker room.

Clark said Rooney encouraged cornerback Ike Taylor to talk to his teammates about it but didn’t ban the word from the locker room.

“I actually walked by during the conversation and he was just telling (Taylor), ‘Hey look, people fought against that word. The origin of that word is demeaning,’ ” Clark said. “(Rooney) was there during the Civil Rights movement so he knows people who fought against that and he’s like ‘You guys shouldn’t be using it. You should understand that it wasn’t meant as a term of endearment so you guys should try to get away from it.’ He was more giving Ike knowledge of the word and its origins then just saying, ‘Hey I don’t want it here.’ It’s about understanding the meaning and origin of the word, which is why I don’t use it.

“Mr. Rooney has earned the right to speak on anything he wants to but especially that word. Not only being instrumental in the Rooney Rule that they implemented into the NFL but by the way he treats us as people, by the way he treats coach Tomlin.”

Clark said players are mindful not to use the word in places where it could make people uncomfortable or reflect poorly on the organization.

“I don’t remember a time where I’ve been on a team where an athlete has used the N-word during an interview, where an athlete has used the N-word where it might be on record or where he felt like TV cameras were around,” Clark said. “They don’t use it when they’re around the office staff upstairs. They don’t use it in the cafeteria when we’re in mixed company. We understand what the right place is to use the word.”

A look at the AFC North

January, 7, 2014
The lone AFC North team in the playoffs made another early exit Sunday when the No. 3 Bengals lost to the No. 6 Chargers, 27-10, at Paul Brown Stadium. With all four division teams now in offseason mode, here is a quick look at them by order of finish in the AFC North.

Cincinnati Bengals

2013 record: 11-5, 3-3 in division

Key free agents: DE Michael Johnson, OT Anthony Collins

Biggest question: Have coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton taken the Bengals as far as they can?

Biggest reason for hope: Despite losing in the wild-card round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season, the Bengals have a very good nucleus. Rookie Giovani Bernard showed enough to think his time splitting carries with the plodding BenJarvus Green-Ellis is over.

Why they might disappoint: Dalton has faltered too many times in big games to think he can take the next step, and just making the playoffs is no longer good enough in Cincinnati.

Overall state of the franchise: The Bengals find themselves at a crossroads, but they have little choice but to stick with Dalton -- for now -- unless they want to draft a quarterback in the first round and hand over a veteran team to him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2013 record: 8-8, 4-2

Key free agents: OLB Jason Worilds, WR Emmanuel Sanders

Biggest question: Will the Steelers re-establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders while re-tooling their defense?

Biggest reason for hope: The offense will be able to mask some of the issues the Steelers have on defense if it builds on its strong second half of the 2013 season.

Why they might disappoint: The defense could get worse before it gets better if younger players don’t emerge in the secondary and Worilds signs elsewhere.

Overall state of the franchise: The Steelers are facing a lot of uncertainty, but a 6-2 finish and the way the offense has come together point to them returning to postseason play in 2014 after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Baltimore Ravens

2013 record: 8-8, 3-3

Key free agents: TE Dennis Pitta, LB Daryl Smith

Biggest question: Did the Ravens suffer through the dreaded Super Bowl hangover or are they in decline?

Biggest reason for hope: Joe Flacco is a franchise quarterback, and there is still plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.

Why they might disappoint: The Ravens, like the Steelers, are clearly in transition on defense. Two cornerstones of that defense -- outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata -- no longer dominate on a consistent basis.

Overall state of the franchise: Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh are as good as any general manager-coach tandem in the NFL, and they have to be given the benefit of the doubt even though the Ravens slipped this season.

Cleveland Browns

2013 record: 4-12, 2-4

Key free agents: C Alex Mack, S T.J. Ward

Biggest question: Will a new coach and a quarterback finally stabilize an organization that has floundered, often spectacularly, since the NFL returned to Cleveland in 1999?

Biggest reason for hope: There are some pieces in place, most notably wide receiver Josh Gordon, cornerback Joe Haden and left tackle Joe Thomas, and the Browns have a pair of first-round picks, including the fourth overall selection.

Why they may disappoint: Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden are the quarterbacks the Browns have drafted in the first round since 1999. Why should Browns fans think they will get it right in this draft?

Overall state of the franchise: The Browns dumped coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season, and unless they find the right replacement and, oh yeah, a quarterback in the draft, the Browns will continue to bottom feed in the AFC North.