NEW YORK (AP) — The Fritz Pollard Alliance sent a letter to the NFL on Monday calling for a 15-yard penalty on players who use abusive language on the field.
The advocacy group, which promotes diversity in the NFL, wrote to league general counsel Jeff Pash and specifically noted the use of racial epithets.
Cyrus Mehri, counsel for the alliance, cited the league’s rule book, which prohibits the use of “abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to opponents, officials, teammates, or representatives of the league.”
“There is no valor in using racial epithets. … Directing the ‘N’ word towards others in a place of work is abusive, threatening, and insulting,” Mehri wrote to Pash.
On Friday, the league announced that umpire Roy Ellison was suspended for this past weekend as punishment for words directed at left tackle Trent Williams late in the second quarter of the Redskins’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles the previous Sunday.
Williams said he was called vulgar names — although not the N-word — by Ellison and did nothing to provoke it. A replay from the second quarter shows Ellison gesturing at Williams while walking backward just before a snap, with Williams, quarterback Robert Griffin III and tight end Niles Paul turning to look back at the umpire. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was among those who supported Williams, saying: “You just can’t use that type of language to get your point across.”
Williams and Ellison are African-American.
Last week, alliance executive director Harry Carson and chairman John Wooten urged all NFL players to stop using the slur.
Mehri added: “We believe the league should authorize game day officials to use graduated discipline with warnings, 15-yard penalties and ejections as appropriate. In our view, if game day officials are empowered — and encouraged — to treat the use of racial epithets as grounds for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, future incidents of this nature are far less likely.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email that “game officials have the authority to enforce penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct as defined in the rule book.”
The National Football League Referees Association issued a statement on Friday saying it will file a grievance, that the suspension was a rush to judgment without hearing Ellison’s side of the story.
Wooten, whose group includes minority coaches and officials, said his organization spoke to game officials who said Ellison was responding after Williams directed the N-word at Ellison.
The incident follows allegations involving racially charged texts allegedly sent by Richie Incognito to Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington contributed to this story.
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