Scrabble Players Association Removes 236 ‘Offensive’ Words

Participants play Scrabble during the King's Cup tournament in Bangkok
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images

The North American Scrabble Players Association announced it is removing more than 200 words from the official list of words eligible for scoring in the word-building board game.

The CEO of the association, John Chew, has been making the rounds with media outlets to explain the “necessity to take action on issues of diversity and inclusivity” as Chew wrote in a letter to association members.

Chew, however, has not revealed the list of banned words with the exception of the N-word.

Chew posted a letter to members about the word debate on July 8, including explaining the results of a members poll. 

The letter said, in part:

[Poll respondents] ranged from White supremacist screeds to naive expressions of faith in the fundamental goodness of all people. Some members threatened to leave the association if a single word were removed; others threatened to leave the association if any offensive words remained. There were a lot of good and bad arguments on both sides.

I learned a lot about our community in the past weeks. We have a lot of racists, and we have a lot of bleeding-heart liberals. We have people of every colour on every side of the debate. Somehow, we have all managed to set that all aside when we meet over SCRABBLE boards. It’s what I love about the game.

Yes, I even love that we have racists in the game. It says so much about the power of our game and our community that even racists – not just the hardcore ones that actively spread their toxic hatred, but the softer ones who stand by rather then get involved, who say “I’m not offended, why should they be?” or “If you can’t accept that the words have no meaning, you’re not welcome,” or “If I’m not offended, why should you be?” – can set aside their deep-seated beliefs to spend time playing a board game with people who do not share those beliefs.

The New York Post reported the toy company Hasbro, which owns the rights to Scrabble, has backed up the decision by changing the rules of the game “to make clear that slurs are not permissible.”

“The firm said it has worked to eliminate offensive words from the game’s dictionary with every new edition that’s released,” the Post reported.

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