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Two Lions say racial slurs show their friendship

Tony Scheffler

Detroit Lions tight end Tony Scheffler (85) celebrates his first-half touchdown reception against the New England Patriots in an NFL football game on Saturday, August 27, 2011 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)


When Eagles receiver Riley Cooper was caught on tape using the N-word, it resulted in Cooper being sent away amid a controversy that embroiled the team. But two players on the Lions say they openly use racial slurs toward each other as a sign of affection.

Tony Scheffler, a white tight end, and Louis Delmas, a black safety, have been close friends since they were teammates at Western Michigan, and Terry Foster of the Detroit News writes that they frequently greet each other by Delmas saying, “Hey, cracker,” and Scheffler replying, “How’s my n-----?”

That context is quite a bit different than the context in which Cooper used a racial slur: Cooper was using the N-word to describe people he said he wanted to beat up. But aren’t slurs unacceptable in any context?

Delmas says Cooper deserved the scorn he got, but that Scheffler should not be criticized for using the same word under different circumstances.

“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.”

Similarly, Scheffler said Delmas calls him racially charged names as a sign of affection.

“I treat Louis like a little brother,” Scheffler said. “He knows my wife and kids. He calls me ‘white boy’ and ‘cracker.’ We go back and forth with it and we are both comfortable with each other. I can’t say the same with other relationships in the locker room or how other guys would feel about it. So it is a tough dynamic when you are using those types of words. Everybody does not react the same.”

And everybody will not react the same to Scheffler and Delmas. Some will say it’s great that their friendship is close enough that they can use such words without causing offense. Others will say that everyone, even those who mean no harm, should put racial slurs out of their vocabularies.