Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews on Tuesday expressed ambivalence about the NFL's proposed rule change to penalize the use of a racial slur – the “N” word – on the field.
In an interview with Boomer Esiason and Craig Caron on WFAN radio in New York, Matthews said that on one hand, policing language on an NFL field will be difficult and a potentially slippery slope.
“You’re teetering on a fine line, obviously,” he said. “Where does this start, where does it stop? But I think this is all an effort to clean up the game, so who knows how this will play out? Who knows if this will actually be passed? I know the NFL is doing everything in their power to not only limit – especially after this Jonathan Martin case and where the league is going, to make this a family friendly environment. The reality is this is a tough sport played by tough men. It’s an emotional sport as well, and tempers fly.”
But Matthews said he also understood the desire to eliminate this historically charged word from the game regardless of who is using it.
“It’s more so that players are using it as a term of endearment or how it’s used in pop culture and society these day,” Matthews said. “I think they’re just trying to clean it up in that regard. It’s hard for me to comment on that, a guy who obviously doesn’t use the word. But at the same time I think the players using it are not understanding the magnitude of it and using it as a term of endearment. I think that’s where the NFL would like it to change.”
Matthews also said that the Packers would have no difficulty assimilating an openly gay player into their locker room.
“No, we don’t have a problem and I don’t think we would,” Matthews said, “because the unique thing about the NFL locker room that every player can attest to is the fact that we don’t see race, religion or sexual orientation. We see simply, can you help us win ball games, can you help us produce on the football field?
“And I think that’s what makes it so unique and so much different than PC America. That’s why you can have a multitude of players who are black, white, Polynesian, gay, whatever it may be in this case, and come together and play for a common goal. I really don’t think it will be an issue. I think it will be something more for the fans to use as fodder, as they make fun of any player.”
In an interview on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN radio (via Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com), Matthews said he’s still undergoing physical therapy three times a week for the broken thumb he had surgically repaired for a second time in late December.
“I’ve been able to work out with a few limitations,” he said, “but from talking with the doctors, there shouldn’t be any limitations once next season rolls around. It’s just been a pain because obviously you look at it, it’s just a broken thumb. But it’s such an aggravating injury for a pass-rusher, especially in the manner in which I did it twice and having to have it surgically repaired twice, it doesn’t make it for an easy offseason in recovery.”