Is is quite possible that after the National Basketball Association, my next favorite league/sport to watch and follow is soccer's English Premier League. It is a fantastic sport to watch, and the top level of English teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea are some of the most valuable and popular sports teams in the entire world.
The Premier League club I support is Liverpool, (for reasons too boring to re-tell), and while I am not a super hardcore supporter, I do try and keep up with the off-season player transfers and signings by the club and other elements of club-related news.
But this bit of Liverpool team news that was reported earlier in the week, Liverpool issue list of 'unacceptable' words to fight discrimination made me pause for a moment, as it is once again, in classic 8 Man Rotation style, the worlds of sports and HR colliding.
Rather than try to summarize the entire piece, I will just lift quote from the Guardian piece referenced above:
Liverpool have issued members of staff with a list of "unacceptable" words and phrases in their efforts to combat all forms of discrimination at Anfield. (a pic of the leaked list of 'words you better not say is at right)
The guide, part of a wider education programme run by the club, details terms that employees should deem offensive under the headings of race/religion, sexual orientation, gender and disability. Most are self-explanatory and the guide advises that it is "important to understand the context of what's being said", as in the use, under gender for example, of "princess" or "don't be a woman" on the Anfield terraces next season.
Liverpool's list of what is "usually offensive and the club considers unacceptable" has been given to all full-time and casual members of staff who have contact with the public on matchdays or on a daily basis. The club were widely criticised for their support of Luis Suárez when the striker was found guilty in December 2011 of having used racially abusive language towards Patrice Evra but view their education programme as one of several proactive measures taken to combat discrimination.
That is fantastic, (sarcasm on). A list, organized by type of slur, of the things that you probably ought not to say at work, heck, you probably ought not to say anywhere.
I can only imagine the day the HR or Operations folks (or whomever crafted this list) sat around the conference table saying things like, 'There has to be more ways to offend gay people. C'mon - let's think darn it!'.
I get why Liverpool specifically, and football/soccer more generally take the issue of discrimination seriously enough to want to be extremely precise and particular about the standards of behavior and discourse that are expected, and what, again specifically, is unacceptable. There continues to be ugly incident after ugly incident of incredibly offensive and even violent actions that are in one way or another tied back to the sport. They can't pretend that is not the reality and recent history in their industry.
But then again, creating and distributing a printed list of these (mostly), obviously offensive words seems a little strange too. Did they really think their employees don't realize the N-word is offensive and it should not be used in the workplace?
A bunch of years back when he was the head football coach at Oklahoma University, Barry Switzer was asked during a press conference to try and explain the reasons for a recent spate of player run-ins with the law, including a couple of pretty serious charges like car theft and assault. After trying to talk about the team expectations and support structures in place to try and prevent such incidents an exasperated Switzer finally said, 'I didn't think I had to put a sign on the locker room wall saying that 'Commiting a felony is against team policy.'
That story is what I recalled when reading about the Liverpool 'list of things we shouldn't have to tell you not to say, but we can't figure out why enough people don't realize that so we had to make this list to be sure'.
People can be really disappointing sometimes I guess.