A fascinating story in today's Detroit News about Tony Scheffler and Louis Delmas, friends since college and teammates on the Lions. Like many friends, they have pet names for each other. Unlike many interracial friends, those pet names are racial slurs.
“Hey, cracker,” Delmas often says to Scheffler inside the Lions practice facility.
“How’s my n——-?” Scheffler replies.
“Me and (Scheffler) have a relationship many people do not have — both black and white,” Delmas said. “I look at him like my brother. I love him to death.
“He greets me, ‘What up, n——-?’ But I understand it. So I say, ‘What’s up, cracker?’ But we would never take it outside the building.”
Scheffler knows the history of the word and the sensitivity he must use. He would never call another teammate that. He never calls Delmas the N-word outside the dressing room or in front of his family. They are playful exchanges in meeting rooms and the practice field.
It's a nice little locker room peek, one we'd never get if not for Riley Cooper and the debate surrounding his use of the slur at a Kenny Chesney concert. And if it were just that, the two schools of thought would just fall back on their standard positions. ("There's a difference between using it with a friend in a private setting and using it in anger, in public, against a complete stranger."/"If they can use the word, why can't I?")
But what's great about Terry Foster's story is that it doesn't stop with an anecdote that allows readers to retreat to dogmatic corners. It goes deeper into the racial politics of a locker room that looks very much like a microcosm of the issues at hand: socially and ideologically divided, but focused on keeping the peace above all else.
I spoke to a few players off the record about this issue and they were OK with the Delmas-Scheffler relationship. However, white players said they did not like being called white boy or cracker by black teammates they were not close with. But they believed it is better to remain silent to continue team harmony.
I asked one white player if he really knew his black teammates. He said no.
“Just look in our lunch room,” he said. “Black players are at one table and most of the white players are at other tables.”
There's probably not another industry with comparable proportions of white and black employees working in such close proximity, or with near-identical racial proportions of consumers. This makes the NFL a safe little proving ground for social issues, so stuff like this—even the Riley Cooper controversy—is constructive, even if only to see where the other side stands.
Now put on your caps lock and head to the PFT comments for more incisive commentary.
For two Lions, racial slurs are friendly banter [Detroit News]