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Super Bowl QB Faces Criticism Over ‘Retarded’ Comment


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As he prepares to take the field in the Super Bowl this Sunday, the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens is finding himself in hot water for using the word “retarded.”

Joe Flacco used the term, which is offensive to many with disabilities, in response to a question from a Denver Post columnist who wondered what the NFL quarterback thought of future Super Bowls being played in cold-weather climates.

“Yeah, I think it’s retarded,” Flacco said Monday before correcting himself. “I guess I shouldn’t say that (word). I think it’s stupid. If you want to have a Super Bowl, put a retractable dome on your stadium, then you can get one. Other than that, I don’t really like the idea.”

The comment drew criticism from disability advocates who have worked to remove the term from both legal and conversational use.

“All eyes are on the players competing in this weekend’s Super Bowl, and unfortunately, while under this media microscope, Joe Flacco used a hurtful word to people with disabilities,” Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, said in a statement. “After Super Bowl XLVII is in the history books, The Arc would welcome Mr. Flacco in the national dialogue about why this word is offensive to people with disabilities and what fans can do to help us remove the word from our society.”

Flacco does have a history of supporting people with disabilities. The Baltimore Sun reports that he has co-chaired a fundraising event for Special Olympics Maryland in the past.

“We’re glad to see he took it back immediately and recognized that he kind of made a slip,” a spokeswoman for the organization told the newspaper. “We’re still supportive of him and look forward to working with him in the future.”

Flacco reportedly apologized for the word choice during Super Bowl media day on Tuesday, citing his longtime relationship with Special Olympics.

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Comments (25 Responses)

  1. soricobob says:

    Let’s see, I’ve been a Special Educator for 44 years, and I’ve been hearing offensive terms longer than that. But, I’ve also been hearing terms for Blacks, Jews, Asians, Arabs, and others for that long as well. Free speech is like the 2nd amendment; if you don’t take the good with the bad you’re going to be very, very upset for a long, long time. Fight the battles, and the war will seem smaller!

  2. Jon K. Evans says:

    At least, Joe Flacco tried to put the brake on himself. That’s SUBSTANTIALLY more than other notables have done. I am immediately thinking of cabinet member James Watt and Louis Fraud-A-Con.

  3. Thomas Heuer says:

    Who among us has not slipped and used a word (that particular word or any of a hundred other unacceptable ones) in a public situation we wished we could take back? I appreciate that Joe Flacco caught himself and apologized. He should be commended, not criticized.

  4. Diane says:

    I agree. He took back his word immediately and we should cut him some slack. Anyone can make a verbal mistake as the word has been used for our entire lifetimes. While we are trying to update our vocabulary, I would like to see a campaign to end the use of “special needs”. People with a disability do not have any different or “special” needs than anybody else. They have the same needs, but they may need to be met in a different way. Let’s get rid of the pity party!!!!

  5. Clare Russell says:

    Seriously? There’s an article about this? Have we become so shallow and thin-skinned that we make a comment about this….oh wait, it would appear some groups have.

  6. Lauren says:

    If that word can so easily slip out of your mouth, than you must use it more often than not. He has set back the movement to remove that word from popular usage years due to his sport status. Very sad.

  7. kimbers says:

    Let’s get some perspective on this – he said the word, he not only knew immediately that it was inappropriate, he said that it was a word that he shouldn’t be using and corrected himself. And then he apologized at a press event. This should be an example to people not an opportunity to criticise – leave the man alone!

  8. Donna Broden says:

    I think that sometimes we need to look up the definition of words. We really are not using words accurately.
    The definition of the word retarded is to make slow, delay the development or progress of (an action, process etc.); hinder or impede. People have taken the definition and created a meaning that is incorrect. I too am sensitive to people using the word ‘retarded’ in a mean, hurtful manner. But know this, people can turn around any word to be hurtful. I recall when I was very young the word, ‘black’ was used to hurt African American people. But it took a musician, James Brown to turn the mean of black around, “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud,” to something positive. We need to inform people, educate as many as we can, but there are times when we cannot educate some people because they don’t care to be educated, that is when you simply ignore them and ‘move forward’ and do the right thing! Donna Broden, practicing Speech Pathologist for 30 years, and Board of Director of Claudy’s House for Developmentally Challenged Adults in DeSoto, TX

  9. Tim says:

    Really??? Come on folks, we all know no one is perfect. Did there really need to be an article about Joe Flacco slipping up and appoligising immedatly after the mistake? Clearly his intention was NOT to insult anyone, this was a mistake and he made that clear. A little forgivenes could do wonders if you try it. If we were talking about someone being nasty, that would be an entirely different situation. Obviously that is not the case here. Give the man credit for being human.

  10. mymajc says:

    We can keep changing terms for someone who has an IQ less than a certain number and the mainstream will find a way to work it into he vocabulary( I’ve already seen intellectual disabled hurled as an insult in comment sections in newspapers). Stupid use to be offensive as well. It is not words we have to keep changing but attitudes.

  11. EqualAccess says:

    obviously a slip of the tongue but this still indicates how deeply rooted with the American Culture this term is!

  12. Jay Linnebur says:

    If Flaco is a big supporter of Special Olympics…he should have never thought to use that word.

  13. Val Stilwell, MSCS says:

    I think we need to hold the media up to scrutiny for flamming the fires of sensationalism. This was an honest mistake. I think there should be a fine for media/reporters that uses this technique to engage readers.

  14. Patricia Elaine Chandler says:

    I am “dis-Abled”, for now. I am Autistic, forever. I have recently acquired a new perspective on the word Retarded, and I can now completely and forever shed a life-long label, burden, pain: People canNot be retarded; on objects, things, situations. Look at the true meaning and trace its origin. As a Species on this planet, the thing that, unfortunately, simultaneously unites and separates us is, Language Usage and Communication. It is a wonder any Child is Learning anything in school today. Let’s perhaps try to start looking at re-thinking the whole Communication paradigm, because Effective Communication is the only real dividing line between the Abled and dis-Abled, right? and start dialoguing (meaning Speaking face to face instead of “commenting” incessantly and relentlessly through this artificial trap called the internet) about “What is Effective Communication and What is the criteria used to determine Effective Communication, in the 21st Century?” We are witnessing the mass dumbing down of our civilization, with the advent of the “146 written characters or less” and it is, in a WORD, Insane!

  15. Therese says:

    In the last year, as things in my office have changed, I’ve caught myself using the word and then corrected myself. He did too. Leave him alone. Ohh, and I have two low functioning autistic children and I work in special ed. It slips out sometimes (never to the children, always to the adults) when certain situations call for a word when things are idiotic.

  16. Ruth Redmond says:

    what kind of IQ could you really expect out of an NFL player. I think he just is not very smart. However, Ann Coulter is another issue all together as she actually thinks she is an “intellectual” person. Flacco is paid for his braun and not his brain. He shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

  17. Mrs Christy says:

    As a mother of a child with special needs (down syndrome) I think this article is important, just as important as the apology that came after. We are in a new age of how people with disabilities desire and deserve the same respect others get. Using the r word is much like using any derogatory word. Not one person would yell the n word in a crowded place, because you would be offending an entire community of people. Minorities worked hard to fight for equal rights & respect. Much like what the Down syndrome community is doing now.; through public articles such as this. We will no longer tolerate this type of vocabulary. It was once a common term (medical) much like the r word. Now it has a megective, hurtful meaning to it; much like their word. So we are spreading knowledge about our community. We will stand up against hate speech!

  18. Susan Henderson says:

    The word ‘retarded’ is offensive to many, not just, “to many with disabilities.”

  19. CJB says:

    He didn’t call anyone retarded – he said the circumstances were retarded. Retarded comes from the Latin retardare, “to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder” and seems appropriate in these circumstances. To play a Super Bowl in the snow and cold would make the game slow, delayed, kept back and hindered. As a parent of a child with “mental retardation” I was not the least bit offended. Regardless of what term you decide to use, society will find a way to twist and use in inappropriate circumstances. We all need to just lighten up. There are much bigger fires to put out.

  20. Patti Isken says:

    This is too ridiculous to even mention. Joe was not even referencing people. Before reacting maybe a little research into his philanthropic efforts would be in order. It is so difficult these days to keep up with “political correctness”. I had a “mentally retarded” uncle as a child, btw that was the medically accepted terminology at the time. He was so sweet and I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with him and it made me very sympathetic to these unfortunate souls. As a result I and my daughter have done much philanthropic work to assist these beautiful souls. Helping them is not about “words” but about support, education, compassion, understanding and above all love. We are not placed on this earth to be so concerned with “words”, political correctness and judgment. That is just a waste of precious time!

  21. Carolyn says:

    A young lady on Twitter told my daughter whom she does not know she “has autism and she is special and needs all the help she can get then thr R word”! then ” I will beat your beep at the train station. My daughter was reduced to tears and I was angry. Reported it to TWITTER and her photo is of her naked body and TWITTER did NOTHING about this. I must say we live in a world full of eveil people. But, unlike this chick he said sorry and THAT goes a long way!

  22. Carolyn says:

    Spell check………… Evil

  23. Kirsten says:

    I guess Clair Russell forgot where she was. It’s a campaign, Claire…the more you put it out there, the more people listen. You did! You took the time to comment, as ignorant as your comments were, you still made the effort. NO ONE is limited or hindered from learning, therefore, the word is no longer useful.

  24. Liz Weintraub says:

    If Joe Flaco knew that it was a hurtful term, why did he use the term. I am a person with a disability and I am quite suprise and angry that in 2013, people are still using that term. Nobody uses the “N” word anymore, because it hurts people who are african americans. But still people use the “R” word and makes people with disabilities feel bad and angry…don’t people know that WE matter.

  25. Barbara Coppens says:

    yes that word should not be use people with Disabilities they are people like everyone else
    they work being more independent,

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