Pop Culture, Sports

The Morning After the Morning After

Richard Sherman Shouldn’t be Hated for Wrong Reasons

It takes a special kind of athlete to polarize and pull us as a society in and start talking about them.  Some athletes do it with their play on the field.  Some more unfortunate ones get a society talking as a result of some off the field nonsense.

richard-sherman-seattle-seahawksAfter the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers over the weekend, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman got us all talking about him — because Sherman was interviewed by Fox’s Erin Andrews and was caught in a moment.  The moment that was straight out of an old school WWF interview made football fans — and everyday John and Jane Does — rush to judge an individual that plays with such emotion and passion on the field that is just plain misunderstood.

When all the backlash had cleared, I had to ask people why they disliked Richard Sherman.  The results were mixed bag of understandable reasons, but there was one that just made me sick.

“I don’t like Richard Sherman because what he did was classless.”

Classless was the word that got thrown around a lot with regard to Sherman.  Maybe it’s true, and maybe it’s not, but let’s not act like football players are like 1800s duelists.  They’re gladiators — the majority of which in the Roman era were, in fact, members of the lower class (some even in the lowest of class).  For sixty minutes once a week, these guys kill themselves for our entertainment.  It takes a special breed of person to play this game, and it takes an incredible amount of passion and emotion.

Was it the trash talking that was classless?  Really?  Trash talking has been around a lot longer than Mr. Sherman, people.  Let’s not act like this is a new thing.  Have we already forgotten about former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott’s expression of impatience with regards to a future matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Scott essentially yelled an interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.  What made Scott’s tirade funny and acceptable yet Sherman’s was so quote/unquote “classless”?

Most football fans are also basketball fans.  With that in mind, remember Gary Patyon — the patriarch of modern trash talk?  He was never considered “classless”.  To this day, Payton is revered by his peers and accepted by his sport — as evidenced by his NBA Hall of Fame inductance.  In a league where Richie Incognito (bully), Riley Cooper (racial slur deliverer), Antonio Cromartie (multiple children via multiple mothers), Ben Roethlisberger (multiple alleged sexual assault charges) and once contained Aaron Hernandez (alleged murderer), Richard Sherman’s trash talk is where we draw the line on classless?

(Besides.  Terrell Owens’s stunt on the Dallas Cowboys star will always and forever be the epitome of classlessness.)

“I don’t like Richard Sherman because he exuded poor sportsmanship.”

This one is the one that I can sort of get behind but only a little bit.  When Sherman tipped the ball that led to the interception that ended the game, he ran over to 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree — whom he had been covering on the play — patted him on the bottom and extended his hand to say “good game, good game”.  Crabtree responded by mugging Sherman in the face.

That’s what set Sherman off.  Now, no one really knows what Sherman said to Crabtree before the mugging.  Maybe he said something to upset Crabtree, but we don’t know.  According to an interview Sherman did with Sports Illustrated yesterday, this is what happened:

Screen shot 2014-01-21 at 10.59.36 AM“I ran over to Crabtree to shake his hand but he ignored me. I patted him, stuck out my hand and said, “Good game, good game.” That’s when he shoved my face, and that’s when I went off.”

Understandable response especially considering this rivalry with Crabtree has been brewing for some time.  Last year at a charity event hosted by Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Crabtree tried to pick a fight with Sherman.  According to Sherman’s older brother, Branton, Richard Sherman again tried to extend a hand to shake, and Crabtree tried to instigate.  Sherman (Richard) vowed right then and there that he didn’t like Crabtree.

Despite that event, and despite Sherman’s dislike for Crabtree, there he was again extending an arm to Crabtree after the two played an incredible game all evening.  There, again, was Crabtree mugging Sherman and potentially starting something.  Maybe Sherman exuded poor sportsmanship, but it wasn’t a result of a lack of trying.  He tried.  You can’t blame him entirely for his reaction.

“I don’t like Richard Sherman because he’s a ghetto thug.”

This is the one that just pissed me off because it has nothing to do with the game of football.  When you hear the word “ghetto”, the majority of people in this country think African-American.  There are white ghettos and Latino ghettos and Asian ghettos and whatever other race of ghettos.  There may be Native American ghettos, but I’m not sure.  When you hear or use the word “ghetto”, there is an almost immediate association with African-Americans.

That’s just unfortunately how it is.  Richard Sherman and successful African-Americans have had to deal with that for their entire lives.  Sherman has done immense amounts of work to shed himself of that label.  He has the dreadlocks.  He was born and raised in Compton, California — which is probably the picture in the Webster’s Dictionary when you look up the word “ghetto”.  Don’t let what Sherman did on Sunday discount what kind of person he really is.

richard-sherman-foundationOn the field, Sherman is a passionate and emotional football player.  Off the field, Sherman is one of the most charitable people in the league.  That’s the kind of house he was raised in.  His mother and father were very gracious to the children in the neighborhood they lived in.  They opened their home to anyone that wanted to come by.  The only requirement was that there was no gang affiliation.

Sherman hosted a charity softball game last year to benefit “Homes for Heroes”.  This past June, he launched “Blanket Coverage — The Richard Sherman Foundation” which is his organization dedicated to ensuring that children are provided with proper clothing and school supplies for those having difficult times.  It isn’t fair to give Sherman that “ghetto” label simply based on what he did on Sunday.  It isn’t right.  It isn’t accurate.  It’s just ignorant.

People always had kind of an idea who Richard Sherman was because they’ve heard his name or they follow him on Twitter (@RSherman_25 by the way).  This past Sunday, however, the entire world was introduced to him.  He entered your living rooms with the boom and passion that the “Legion of Boom” enters stadiums with.

Sherman is the best cornerback in the NFL … so people just better start getting used to him.

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About Adio Royster

Co-Editor and Columnist about may topics for Total Sports Live - a Philadelphia-based sports website.

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