Scrabble players association considers banning slurs from official tournaments


The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) advisory board is prepared to vote on banning 226 offensive terms from use in official tournaments after members called for the change, the New York Times reported.

The official Scrabble dictionary, sold by Hasbro Gaming, has not included slurs since 1994, but the players association has allowed them in competitive tournaments.

Scrabble players association to pull slurs from use

Hasbro, which owns the North American rights to the board game, told the New York Times the players association had “agreed to remove all slurs from their word list for Scrabble tournament play, which is managed solely by NASPA and available only to members.”

It came after John Chew, the chief executive of the association, formally petitioned the advisory board last month to pull the words. He also wrote to members in the monthly newsletter advocating for the removal of the anti-Black racial slur.

If the words are taken out, they would be ineligible for use in competition. They could also not be used in online versions of the game, which use the association’s rules.

Hasbro will also amend its official Scrabble rules “to make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game,” spokeswoman Julie Duffy told the Times.

Why were slurs allowed in the game?

Tournaments allowed slurs because they were a part of the English language, per the Times, and the guiding idea of Scrabble is that it’s points, not the words, that win games.

In his newsletter, Chew listed the reasons members wanted the slurs removed and why they wanted to keep them. The topic was discussed previously on the “NASPA Member Concerns” Facebook page.

Reasons for not removing the slurs included:

  • It might result in people asking for more words to be removed

  • Some aren’t offended by the slurs

  • “No one has the right or ability to call a word offensive.”

  • Scrabble is about spelling words without context

The reasons to remove them were lengthy and dispelled some of the concerns.

The debate over slurs in the competitive tournaments has been around since the 1990s, when Hasbros was called upon to disallow words after a complaint about an anti-Semitic word.

The game company removed it from its dictionary. But the competitive players disagreed and started following a separate lexicon produced by its association.

The winning SCRABBLE board of teammates Noah Kalus, from New Paltz, N.Y. and Zach Ansell, from Los Angeles, Calif., not pictured, after defeating teammates Matias Shundi, and Javier Contreras, not pictured, both from Chapel Hill, N.C., in the finals of the 2015 North American School SCRABBLE Championship, at Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I., Sunday, May 17, 2015. Kalus and Ansell won, 587 to 331. (Stew Milne/AP Images for Hasbro)
Scrabble will not allow slurs at his competitive tournaments any longer. (Stew Milne/AP Images for Hasbro)

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Originally published