DUELING COLUMN: FIU Athletics Handled N-Word Controversy Adequately

Damielys Duarte/Assistant Opinion Director

For centuries, the United States has grappled with the concept of freedom of expression, with more recent cases revolving around the verbal discrimination of minorities. While the government will not endorse hate speech, we cannot repress the undeniable right American citizens have to free speech, no matter how disagreeable or offensive it may be. 

Last week, three white FIU softball players went viral for a TikTok that showed them singing along to the song “Do Better” by Lil Donald and repeating the N-word, which forms part of the song’s lyrics.

According to a recent article published by PantherNOW, FIU Athletics responded by assigning the three players a course on social justice after Amani Malvin-Taylor, a residential assistant at University Towers, recognized the three athletes and reported the video to the Housing Director on September 9.

Despite the school assigning the course, many individuals, including Malvin-Taylor, believe the university has not done enough to support Black students, even going so far as to say that the girls should be removed from the team. Not soon after, a petition began circulating for FIU to impose further disciplinary actions on the players’ use of racial slurs.

What those arguing in favor of stricter punishment don’t understand, is that the process of disciplining students for activities and speech perceived as offensive has been interpreted as unconstitutional in court—even if other state universities have gotten away with it in the past. One example is the case of Iota XI Chapter of Sigma Chi v. George Mason University, where the district court of Virginia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who had been put on a two-year probationary period for the use of blackface during a charity social event.

In addition to the fact that any form of social or academic repercussion towards the softball players can be countered in court, the increasing aggression towards the FIU athletes seems to be mainly spurred on by the toxic phenomena of “cancel culture”.

These players were clearly singing along to a popular song and partaking in a form of entertainment outside of the academic bounds of the university. They did not portray any outward sign of racism, but simply sang along to a song. As such, they should not be labeled as racists for not censoring themselves in the comfort of their own space.

By labeling these college athletes as racist and demanding their removal from the team, we are only furthering the current divide in our country—and for no productive reason, seeing as their removal will not erase the digital trail of that video, nor right the historic wrongs of our nation. It will only create greater hostility between demographics as we continue to exclude individuals from our communities based on the color of their skin.

For years, the Black community has popularized the usage of the N-word in order to counteract its original negative connotation rooted in a history of violence towards African Americans. While it is not my place nor intention to determine the social use of the word within the Black community, I don’t believe this incident was enough to call for severe repercussions like the removal of these athletes from their team.

We live in a free country where even obscene language is protected in the U.S. Constitution. While this does not constitute a free pass to racism and hate speech, we must respect the individual language of every person no matter the color of their skin.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Featured image from iluvgadgets on Flickr. 

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