Scrabble Association bans racial, ethnic slurs from official word list

Even if they are worth a triple word bonus, racial and ethnic slurs are no longer above board in official Scrabble tournaments.

The North American Scrabble Players Association announced Wednesday that it will remove 236 slurs and other offensive words from the official word list that is used at its tournaments, NPR reported.

The decision comes after an online poll conducted by the organization that yielded impassioned responses and debate, NASPA CEO John Chew, said in a statement.

“Some members threatened to leave the association if a single word were removed; others threatened to leave the association if any offensive words remained,” Chew said. “There were a lot of good and bad arguments on both sides.”

Hasbro, the toy company that owns the rights to Scrabble in North America, said in a statement that it is changing the game’s official rules “to make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game.”

The Merriam-Webster Official Scrabble Players Dictionary is the official word list for North America, Hasbro said, noting that the company first worked with the dictionary in 1994 to remove offensive words from the Scrabble dictionary.

“(We) have since made it our policy to review the full word list prior to each reprinting, knowing that as times change, language evolves,” Hasbro said in its statement. We are now on the 6th edition of the Merriam-Webster Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, and words have been removed prior to each printing.

NASPA currently has 192,111 playable words on its list, and Hasbro technically has no control over what is used, The New York Times reported. However, the toy giant does license NASPA to use the name “Scrabble” and does not want to see slurs connected with its brand, the newspaper reported.

Hasbro said it was committed to “providing an experience that is inclusive and enjoyable for all,” the newspaper reported.

Chew told NPR that NASPA represents about 10,000 players in the U.S. and Canada and that there was “about a 50-50 split” over whether to remove the slurs from its official word list.

He said the reevaluation of the list started a few weeks ago with a post on NASPA's Facebook page.

“One of our members asked what we were doing to reduce racial tensions in the U.S. and Canada,” Chew told NPR. “And then someone else asked ‘what if we take the N-word out of the lexicon, would that at least be a good start?’ "

Words that are potentially offensive but are not considered slurs -- like body parts, for example -- will remain on NASPA’s list, Chew said.