Scrabble to ban slurs, other offensive words from official tournaments

Hasbro will also change game rules to prohibit use of slur words.

July 08, 2020, 4:48 PM

Words of hate and bias won't appear on any Scrabble board in official tournaments going forward.

Hasbro, which owns the rights to the board game, and North American Scrabble Players Association announced that it will ban slurs and other offensive epitaphs from official North American tournaments.

The NASPA's permitted word list is different from the official Scrabble Merriam-Webster dictionary, which has removed offensive words throughout the years, according to John Chew, the association's CEO, and in recent weeks, he received calls from players to remove words such as the n-word and c-word from official play.

"I thought to myself, 'Why haven’t we done this already?'" Chew told ABC News.

Chew, who joined the association in 2009, said the topic has come up in the past, as the association uses different dictionaries than the official Scrabble dictionary for play. The association decided not to remove some slurs from adult competition because there was a debate about removing words such as poo and fart, which could be offensive to certain players.

PHOTO: In this Feb. 16, 2016, file photo, people play scrabble with fellow members of Scrabble Club #34 in Huntington Beach, Calif. Club #34 is a member of  the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA).
In this Feb. 16, 2016, file photo, people play scrabble with fellow members of Scrabble Club #34 in Huntington Beach, Calif. Club #34 is a member of the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA).
Leonard Ortiz/Orange County Register via MediaNews Group via Getty Images, FILE

Chew, however, said some words should never be used in the game.

"The key difference is a word like fart and poo are just words that people say to make others feel slightly uncomfortable ... but then there are words like the n-word that are used to specifically demean people," he said.

Chew said players for the most part don't use slurs in competitive play, but nonetheless, those words should be reviewed and stricken from official play. The association is looking at 236 “offensive words” to remove from official play and it will consult Merriam-Webster throughout the process. Chew assured that the n-word and c-word will be removed from the permitted list when it is finalized in the coming weeks.

Julie Duffy, a Hasbro spokeswoman, said in a statement that in addition to working with NASPA on tournament rules, the company will update Scrabble's official rules "to make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game."

PHOTO: In this Aug. 5, 2015, file photo, the 2015 North American SCRABBLE Championship in Reno, NV, is shown.
In this Aug. 5, 2015, file photo, the 2015 North American SCRABBLE Championship in Reno, NV, is shown.
Steve Yeater/AP for Hasbro, FILE

"Hasbro Gaming is rooted in community and bringing people together, and we are committed to providing an experience that is inclusive and enjoyable for all," she said in a statement.

Chew said most of NASPA's players have approved the plan to remove the slurs. Generally, he said, they are all open to making the competitions as fair, and open to players of all backgrounds.

"Although people say this is a tiny step to be taking ... I figure changing our lexicon changes the core of who we are as word game players," he said.

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