The Zinger and the Slur
Source: Photo courtesy of David Goehring, http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/99785459/.
Football coach Joe Paterno’s on-field prowess is only slightly more legendary than his sharp tongue. This is one crowd favorite: “If I ever need a brain transplant, I want one from a sports writer because I’ll know it’s never been used.”Mike Bianchi, “Panthers Gm Proves Paterno Barb Wrong,” Orlando Sentinel, January 31, 2004, accessed May 31, 2011, http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2004-01-31/sports/0401310276_1_sports-writer-silly-stuff-recruiting-visits.
Most people find this to be pretty funny. And though it rubs some sports writers the wrong way, no one is going to file a lawsuit or claim antidiscriminatory protection is needed to protect the offended. On the other hand, JoePa—as he’s called around Pennsylvania—himself suffered taunting as a younger man. People called him a “wop,” a slur attacking someone’s Italian heritage (like the more common “guido” or calling a Chinese person a “Chink”).
From an ethical viewpoint, and within a discussion of discrimination, why does the brain transplant zinger get a green light while the wop slur seems objectionable?