The TSL Top 10: Richie Incognito and The Evolution of The N-Word – #10

The editorial staff at TSL took a look back at some of the biggest moments in 2013, and some of the the hardest-hitting commentary and analysis to round out the year. 

Starting at #10 was the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito scandal. TSL went all-out with coverage. Here, we take a look at J.R. Gamble's piece, which addresses the cultural use of the n-word and how it's evolved over time.  


The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal captivated national headlines in 2013 and put an infra-red microscope on the culture of NFL locker rooms. The revelation that a 300-pound pro football player could be bullied, broadened discussions about an epidemic that so many youngsters face, and introduced the very real existence of adult bullying.

The demeaning racial epithets that Incognito directed at Martin via voicemail sparked a mosh pit of public opinions, and you know The Shadow League had our two cents to share.

The Nov. 8th, TSL article, “Were Martin and Incognito "Niggaz" Or Was Martin His "Nigger?” shed light on the use of the N-word and the cultural transformation the word has experienced in the past 20 years. The article broke down how age and cultural gaps have split older and younger generations on how appropriate or offensive the N-word is.

Now that music, movies, TV and pop culture has been saturated with uses of the N-word, TSL pointed out that, “It doesn’t seem like too many (younger) fans are overly concerned with the fact that Incognito used the N-word during his two-year torture of Martin.” And we tried to explain why. “One thing this Incognito situation brings to light is that there’s definitely a societal gap when debating the appropriateness of using the N-word.”

“As hip-hop became more mainstream, the N-word was no longer just used by bigots and low-life, thug rappers painting pictures of ratched lifestyles and criminal enterprises.”

The article alluded to rapper Q-Tip, who, in his song “Sucka Niggas,” explains “how young, black hip-hop artists have embraced the word and flipped it, stripping the word of its original derogatory meaning. Now, 95% of today’s hip-hop songs use the word like commas in run-on sentences.”

“The cultural transformation of the N-word is a fascinating phenomenon. It’s gone from a vicious word, and the most demeaning thing you can say to a person of color (nigger), to a term of endearment in many diverse social circles (nigga/niggaz/niggas).”

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.