Louis Delmas and Tony Scheffler are more than just teammates on the Detroit Lions. Their bond goes back to their days as teammates at Western Michigan University, where Delmas, a freshman safety, met Scheffler, a senior tight end.
To see a defensive player and an offensive player become so close is rare in a sport in which social structures usually reflect on-field positions. But Delmas, who is black, and Scheffler, who is white, don't stand out because they are friends yet play on opposite sides of the ball. The two have a unique relationship because of the way they address each other, according to the Detroit News.
"Hey, cracker," Delmas often says to Scheffler inside the Lions practice facility.
"How's my n——-?" Scheffler replies.
Delmas is black. Scheffler is white.
Their relationship is one of the tightest bonds in the Lions dressing room, but it is a test to society. Usually whites use the term to tear down and ridicule. Most blacks use the word with an "a" at the end rather than an "er," and it is a term of brotherhood and endearment. Scheffler and Delmas use both forms.
The Delmas-and-Scheffler story is a unique counterpoint to the Riley Cooper controversy. Cooper, a wide receiver for the Phialdelphia Eagles, was caught on tape using the n-word at a Kenny Chesney concert. Since the tape went viral last week, Cooper has sought forgiveness from his teammates, and a much larger discussion has taken place within sports media not only about racial slurs in the locker room and on the field but also the social dynamics among teammates.
Delmas, for his part, told the Detroit News that what he and Scheffler do is different from what happened with Cooper.
Delmas was angry when Cooper screamed at a security guard and talked about fighting every N-word in the stands. Delmas believed the words rolled off Cooper's lips too easily in a public setting.
So how is that different than what he and Scheffler do?
"My teammates understand me," Delmas said. "They call me n——- all the time. We have a bond that can't be broken. And the minute you let that bond get outside this organization and you use that word outside this building, then you need to look yourself in the mirror and address it. The way the public blew up the (Cooper) situation, it should be blown up that way because he needs to learn a lesson. You can't say that. You will never see me going outside the building calling someone cracker. You can't do that."
Read more at the Detroit News.
Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at VerySmartBrothas.com and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.