Teachable Moments: What Richard Sherman Said To Me

I’ve jumped on a bandwagon and I’m not embarrassed to say it. Richard Sherman, you’re cool in my book. And I’ve learned a lot about myself from thinking about my own reaction to your post-win rant after the NFL Divisional Championship.

For those of you who a) lack Seattle or San Francisco ties, b) couldn’t care less about the NFL, or c) are very smart, thoughtful people who get outside more than the rest of us and enjoy freedom from the death-grip of American capitalism don’t own a TV, let me briefly catch you up.

The 49ers were moments away from beating the Seahawks and heading to the Superbowl. In the end zone, Richard Sherman caught the ball intended for 49er receiver Michael Crabtree, and Seattle won the game. In the immediate-post-game interview conducted by Erin Andrews of Fox, Sherman yelled, “I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me. […] Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”

Don’t worry if you missed the video of that interview. You’re probably going to see plenty of replays between now and the end of the Superbowl.

I watched the game–uncharacteristic of me, but hey, I love my town! To me, Sherman sounded angry and childish. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Well, that’s a shame. That really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.” I went on to say something about being Sherman being a poor role model for kids.

If my reaction had been all that immediately lit up Twitter, it still would have created a Teachable Moment. But of course the Twitterverse was far uglier. Hiding being anonymity, people posted horrible comments comparing Sherman to an “angry monkey” and calling him a “thug.” To my horror, I realized my own distaste was magnified a thousand times by those who saw the issue as one of race rather than simply maturity level.

The very next day, a former colleague whom I respect put a Huffington Post article on her Facebook page.  It went into detail about Sherman’s background, from growing up poor in Compton, CA to graduating from Stanford with 4.0. More powerfully, it challenged those who decried Sherman to think about their own reactions.

I did. I’ve read a lot since then, and watched some interviews. And I’m going to hand the mic over to the Huffington Post on this one:

Sherman suggests being labeled a thug is another way for a segment of the white media to call African-Americans like himself the N-Word. He feels a segment of the media contingent has unfairly labeled him something he’s not.

Is Richard Sherman really a thug?

By definition a thug is a person who engages in violent and/or criminal behavior.

Interesting.

Did Sherman kill someone?

Did Sherman rob, deceive or steal from someone?

Has Sherman served anytime in prison for acts contrary to the law?

I characterize his behavior as a display of passion. Sherman was exhibiting behavior in sports that few African-Americans having the platform are willing to use. He was simply talking trash about an opponent whose game he does not respect.

Period.

I agree. And in a later interview, Sherman calmly taught me what I should already have known, if I hadn’t gone solely with my gut reaction in those post-game moments:

It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am. I don’t want to be a villain, because I’m not a villainous person. When I say I’m the best cornerback in football, it’s with a caveat: There isn’t a great defensive backfield in the NFL that doesn’t have a great front seven. Everything begins with pressure up front, and that’s what we get from our pass rushers every Sunday. To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field—don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.

Reading that makes me feel like the childish one. Thanks for the reminder, Richard. I may not be rushing over to the mainland to buy myself a #25 Seahawks jersey like the rest of Seattle, but I’ll be rooting for you, in the big game and in general. 

OK, gonna open it up now. Want to share your own reactions? Talk about the use of the word “thug”? Make a prediction for the Superbowl score? Share your favorite guacamole recipe? I’m listening!

4 thoughts on “Teachable Moments: What Richard Sherman Said To Me

  1. Both Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart made some excellent points about this during the past week. I wish I could find links to the clips. The overall gist of their message was that Sherman was being unfairly attacked, and that there is much more “thuggish” behavior going on that no one (at least in the mainstream media) ever questions. In other words, same old story.

  2. Go Seahawks! We Patriots fans can never root for Denver (plus we have a soft-spot for your fair city and Coach Carroll). In truth, it is amazing the inane questions that these sideline reporters ask. I’m surprised they don’t get more reactions like Sherman’s.

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