I just closed the comments on the SEC Power Poll, which is something I did not do lightly and something I hate to do generally. But I don't have the time right now to wade through almost 300 comments that have more than enough bile going back and forth, so that's how I'm putting a stop to it for now.
Here's the approach going forward: Everyone has a clean slate starting right now. Here are the rules that are going to be strictly enforced, at least until this all calms down.
1. Any abusive name-calling -- provoked or not -- will get a warning on the first offense and a ban the second time. You can question someone's ideas without calling them "stupid," "douche bag," etc.
2. Any racist, homophobic, misogynistic or otherwise offensive comments -- as decided by the editors of this site -- or anything slamming anyone else's faith/lack thereof will get a warning on the first offense and a ban the second time. Using "gay" as an adjective for anything other than an openly gay person (and even in that case, if it's meant to demean or marginalize them) qualifies as homophobic.
3. I know this makes me "that guy," but please watch your language. I'm not going to be a cuss-word policeman, but I'm setting up a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule on the f-bomb. The first two uses in a one-month period will be a warning; the third will be a ban.
We've had a community standards policy for a while, and I've let it slip, largely because our commenters haven't had a problem sticking to it until now. I'm loosening some of these rules before putting it back into place, but here are a couple of the overarching guidelines that still apply.
Be polite to other members. No, that doesn't mean you can't disagree. It just means that you do so in a courteous manner. A person's ideas are fair game -- if someone posts something on the Internet, feel free to say what you want about their opinion. But a commenter or poster on this site is off limits. Friendly teasing, of course, is exempt, and you can poke fun at the coaches, players and personalities of the SEC and the wider world all you want, within the bounds of good taste. Everyone on this site, though, is the member of a community, and I'm not going to allow threads to devolve into personal attacks and name-calling. ...
Show a bit of tolerance. There are rare instances when I'll see a parody idea involving something from "the real world" and integrate it here. Otherwise, I try to leave the broader political and philosophical issues of our day somewhere else. Let's not forget that this is a sports blog, and as such should mostly be concerned with sports. People here are likely from a variety of racial, social, political and religious backgrounds, but we should all be brought together by a love of sports. ... This will be ruled, as all the other guidelines, by common sense. "Obama supports a playoff," is fine. "Obama would support a playoff," is okay. "Obama supports a playoff because it's part of the Democratic Party's plans to shove socialism down our throats" -- without some indication that you're joking -- would draw a warning. Anything labeling Obama with a certain racial epithet would draw a ban. Also: Respecting others' religions means not using the name of religious figures as an exclamation. (This is something that's pretty personal for me, as I'm a Christian and like seeing Jesus' name used only to refer to Him.)
I also want to make clear that this is not directed at any one member. If you're intentionally egging someone on or trying to get them banned, I'm going to treat that as a violation of the "be polite" guideline.
This is only necessary because we've now had a comments section devolve into a flame war unconnected to sports twice in the space of a week. The first time, I tried banning the user that I thought was most responsible for the problem, but some people continued to poke fun at him (even though he couldn't respond), and then he created another account. That's why I'm also adding this rule, enforced from today forward: Anyone who gets banned and creates another account will be automatically banned. No questions asked.
As always, the editors of this site are the final arbiters of these guidelines. You're welcome to email and ask for reconsideration, but there is no formal appeals process beyond us. You can call it the Roger Goodell approach.
For the most part, the people who comment on articles on this site make me proud to be one of the managers and to be a part of this community. We try to allow people to speak their minds freely without fear of abuse or attack. Things have strayed from that in the last few days. That ends today.