Mike’d UP: The use of racial slurs in professional sports and Kevin Durant verus LeBron James

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Michael Kowaleski

The NFL is discussing penalizing players for the use of the racial slurs during games.

Kelley: It is the thought that counts and I support it, but the actual implementation of this proposal is near impossible. There are too many issues for this rule to be effective in the National Football League.

Many players this week have pointed out that racial slurs, such as the N-word for example, are used between two black players. Ryan Clark said that in the Steelers locker room, the word initially disappeared at owner Mr. Rooney’s request, but then it came back because “it’s the culture” and “this is what these guys have grown up with.”

I find it ironic that the NFL wishes to police the use of racial slurs but has one of its most established franchises, the Washington Redskins, using a name that many people find offensive and insulting. Why not start there?

But back to the main point. There is too much that needs to be resolved in regards to this. Which words will be banned? Slurs, whether they be racial or religious or sexist, come across as offensive in some contexts but not in others. The N-word is an example of that.

There is no doubt this is an issue, especially given what occurred in the Miami locker room between Richard Incognito and Jonathan Martin, but the reality of this rule seems far fetched.

 

Kowaleski: I’m always painfully aware of my status as a privileged white male when talking about these things. So discussing which racial slurs are appropriate to whom usually makes me cringe. I’m not the person who should be having an opinion on this.

I do agree on the seeming hypocrisy of the Redskins/N-word cases in the NFL. I do think, though, that this is a harbinger of change in that particular controversy. It means the NFL is taking a harder look at the role it plays in racial discourse, and is taking a hard look at the image it projects in the wake of the Miami Bullying scandal.

The best thing about sports is the way it reflects and promotes widespread, mainstream social change. I’m interested to see the way the black community responds to these penalties—like you said, a lot of players have grown up using the more colloquial “-a” suffix. I bet that after the Incognito-Martin controversy, the “-er” ending will be extremely cracked down on. I’m just curious to hear reports on how hard refs will be on other versions of the word.

 

The NBA and its fans are witnessing a clash between LeBron James and Kevin Durant for top dog in the league.

Kelley: LeBron has made it abundantly clear that he is tired of the recent Durant buzz. The Mt. Rushmore comments, the pre-All Star game dunk video, the game-winner against Golden State, on and on we can go. He wants the attention and scrutiny back where it belongs – on him.

I love it. LeBron is the top player in the NBA but he is definitely not in a class of his own right now. Durant has developed into the most efficient player in the NBA according to statistics and heads arguably the best team in the league. Following the Russell Westbrook injury, Durant put the Thunder on his back in the form of 31 points per game, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Those are better numbers than LeBron’s.

But that doesn’t mean he has surpassed The King. Back-to-back NBA titles, NBA MVP, and NBA Finals MVP have placed LeBron atop the ladder. Durant is inching closer slowly but surely. It will come down to championships. If LeBron keeps winning as he has, than the choice is easy. But if Durant can win one, perhaps even this year, then we will reopen the conversation.

 

Kowaleski: I’m completely with you, Mike. I think LeBron is still the player you take No. 1 in any redraft. But the Slim Reaper’s production this season is hard to ignore when you’re talking about an MVP vote.

Here are the stats as of Wednesday afternoon: Durant is posting a 31.6 ppg/5.5 apg/7.7 rpg line. That’s absurd, and eclipses LeBron’s 26.9 ppg/6.1 apg/7.1 rpg line, which, while extremely impressive, pales in comparison to Durant.

Not only do Durant’s statistics outshine the King’s this season, the context in which he’s done it is more impressive. The Heat have been in coast mode, but the Thunder still have three more wins (43-14) than Miami (40-14). Durant’s been without his right-hand man, Russell Westbrook, who missed a huge chunk of time due to injury. Granted, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, and Jeremy Lamb stepped up, but there’s no doubt that Durant carried that team.

Mike, if these teams keep rolling, we’re headed for another fantastic Finals that can hopefully match last year’s Heat-Spurs matchup. In fact, the narrative is starting to remind me of one of the best Finals of all time—the 1993 Suns-Bulls matchup.