Scrabble Bans Hundreds Of Offensive Words From Competitive Play

Hundreds of offensive words are being removed from official Scrabble competitions, with the players’ association coming to an agreement with Hasbro to remove 225 offensive terms.

The discussion among the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA), the representative and advisory board for competitive Scrabble, was started by Scrabble master Cesar del Solar. Solar asked the association in a private Facebook group what NASPA, which is solely responsible for the rules and governance of competitive Scrabble, was doing following the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and around the world.

“It is not hard to unlearn 238 words (including inflections), none of which are high-probability, and all of which have offensive meanings that are easy to remember. Top-level players are occasionally called upon to do this already, to prevent offensive words from being broadcast or streamed,” the NASPA official newsletter said to members, citing reasons for removing the offensive words.

Hasbro hasn’t published slurs or offensive words in their official Scrabble dictionaries since 1994, according to the New York Times. But the competitive word list, which numbers more than 192,000, has allowed words like “blowjob”, the n-word, f-word and more. The full list of words reviewed is here, although the page has “rearranged” the words “to obfuscate it from the casual reader”.

Even though NASPA are the ones responsible for running tournaments, a statement from Hasbro to the New York Times indicates that the changes will become coda. The company will “make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game,” according to Hasbro spokesperson Julie Duffy.

Hasbro’s support isn’t insignificant. While NASPA controls the permissible wordlist for tournaments, Hasbro are the ones who provide the lexicon that forms the basis for all versions of Scrabble. That means the banned words could also be removed from digital versions of the game, or licensed games that leverage the official Scrabble dictionary.

It’s not the first time Hasbro has removed words from the game. The Anti-Defamation League successfully lobbied Hasbro to remove anti-Semitic terms from the official dictionary in the ’90s.

Following the NASPA’s decision and Hasbro’s support, the words will no longer be playable in sanctioned Scrabble games from September 1, 2020.


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