Richard Sherman is no thug. Let’s just start with that. The definition of a thug is “a violent person, especially a criminal.” Richard Sherman plays professional football in the National Football League, with no criminal record and in the process of getting his Master’s Degree from Stanford University. So, for all of those in our nation who want to use coded language, like “thug,” as a disguise for a word that you know is unacceptable, I got news for you. America is passing you by.
Just a few days prior to Richard Sherman sending his team to the Super Bowl, there was a very important hockey game played between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames. I watched it. Within TWO seconds of the game, four FIGHTS between EIGHT players broke out. FIGHTS. Punching each other in the face. Blood. Violence. And they were all thrown out of the game for misconduct. On top of that, the coach of the Canucks, during the first intermission, went into the hallway of the Flames’ locker room, and attempted to basically fight the whole team. Not sure if I heard anyone calling these guys “thugs” or talking about how they “don’t want their children to grow up to be like them” or that they are “immature” or “embarrassed the sport of hockey.” We just accepted it as part of the game, and moved on.
But, for some reason (insert: sarcasm), when Richard Sherman gives an emotional interview after the most important game of his career, and talks a little trash, we want to lock dude up, like he just knifed somebody. There is certainly an argument to be had about his level of sportsmanship without attempting to put a prison number on Richard Sherman’s uniform. But, if we want to watch these guys try to knock each other’s heads off during 60 minutes of battle, then what do we expect them to say when they just made the biggest play of their career? As my dear friend, Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo said on Monday morning, “Most people are willing to eat the cow but they don’t want to see it slaughtered.” This game is brutal. It causes severe brain injuries for some. It ends the ability to walk for others. It knocks people unconscious and breaks bones. Case and point: the nasty injury 49ers linebacker, NaVorro Bowman incurred during the game (hope he has a speedy recovery). And we watch this brutal sport, with beers in our hands, eating all kinds of junk food, yelling and screaming at the television, and betting billions of dollars on the outcome. And we expect the players to act nice?
Richard Sherman was in survival mode when the microphone went in front of his face. He was hyped, as he should have been. And surely, Erin Andrews, might have been a little dazed and confused by his brashness, but that doesn’t mean he just murdered Michael Crabtree. It means that what he said might have been a little too much, and I think he even realizes that now. But, in the moment, I don’t make a judgment, as Richard Sherman got caught up in the excitement of the game. And who can blame him? All game, they don’t throw to his side, knowing he is the best player on the field. And the last play, the play to win the game, the play that the 49ers are hoping ends the Seattle Seahawks season, they try to show him up. And instead of showing him up, he shuts them down and ends the game. Down goes Liston! I’m the King of the World. Somewhere Muhammad Ali is smiling.
Richard Sherman is a passionate, educated football player who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Any team in the league would dream to have him on their squad. He is in a contract year, and I can promise you that he will get a big pay-day this off-season for his talent on the field and off (started his own charity). He is a guy who grew up in a tough environment (Compton), watched his father drive a trash truck in Los Angeles for 30 years and his mother work with disabled children, graduated with a 4.2 GPA from high school (second in his class) and walked across the stage at Stanford University to receive his college diploma. If he wants to pound his chest to proclaim his greatness, then pound your damn chest, like Superman. And I will surely tell my son that Richard Sherman is an American success story that all of us should emulate. But, sadly some of us just can’t stomach it.
I watched for two days the aftermath of Sherman’s comments, and finally, I couldn’t stomach it anymore…so I had to write this. The nasty, racist comments that I saw on twitter and facebook need to be drowned out by those of us who know exactly what calling a black man a “thug” really means. Surely, Richard Sherman’s comments might have crossed the line of sportsmanship, but that gives no one the right to cross the line of racism. Those days of America are coming to an end. For those who want to hold on to some 1957 idea of America, your reign at the top is finished. A new, multi-racial generation has proudly emerged to rip the torch out of the hands of those who want to stop this country from becoming a more perfected union. And if it takes a loud, brash cornerback’s comments after a thrilling victory to teach us this, we will graciously accept the lesson.
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Previously, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik