The scandalous case of the cornerback who said too much

It seems like everywhere I turn, I see people responding to the now infamous “Richard Sherman outburst.”

I first caught this story on the morning news. I honestly wasn’t paying much attention since celebrity gossip is not quite my thing, but I got the distinct impression that something scandalous had happened. The cornerback for the Seahawks, apparently, said something with perhaps more enthusiasm than was seemly.

Since the Pats were out of the superbowl (what a terrible game!), it seemed hardly worth my while.

Then I started to see the Facebook posts. In my feed, at least, a lot of folks were rushing to defend Sherman from the apparent attacks against him.

But I still didn’t really know what was going on. I asked someone else what the hubbub was about. They* didn’t really know either.

“Something, something, something, unsportsmanlike, something,” they said (or perhaps I heard). “Yeah, I think it’s basically that he was unsportsmanlike.”

Well, at least that added some clarity. People tend to freak out over unsportsmanlike comments. Remember the blow back on Rickey Henderson after he declared that, “Today, I’m the greatest of all time” ?

He got into some mighty hot water over that. Though, frankly, I still think it was kinda funny. I mean, seriously, the man had just stolen his 939th base. That day, he was the greatest of all time.

It may not have been my style to announce it to the world, but…having never stolen a single base, I’m not in the best position to reflect on this. And, if you’re wondering, the language “greatest of all time” was intended to be an allusion to the inimitable Muhammad Ali.

So, I don’t really care if someone says something unsportsmanlike. I get that some people care – some thinking its okay and others finding it poor role modeling – but I don’t really care. It’s just not my thing.

But this story really caught my attention when yesterday Sherman commented that his biggest concern is that folks are “using the word ‘thug’ as a substitute for the n-word.”

Okay, well, now I’m concerned about that, too.

I started trying to figure out what actually happened. After the game, Sherman went over to 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and said something. Crabtree hit Sherman in the face. Sherman did a TV interview and Sherman exuberantly told FOX correspondent Erin Andrews “Well, 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!”

In response, as CNN reports: The bile flowed almost immediately — tweets calling him a gorilla, an ape or a thug from the ghetto. “Richard Sherman deserves to get shot in the (expletive) head. Disrespectful (N-word),” said one, expressing a common refrain.

So, folks may indeed be using “thug” as a substitute for the n-word, but, from the quote above, people seem pretty open to using that word too.

I’m unclear on why no one’s talking about Crabtree hitting Sherman. From what I recall, that’s not how we’re supposed to deal with our emotions. But, irregardless, it seems clear that there is a definitive racial component to this backlash.

I’m sure there are people who would be offended by unsportmanlike conduct regardless of race, but my impression is that those are not the voices giving this story its edge.

So, let’s talk about that.

Let’s not debate, in this conversation, whether sports players need to be good role models. Let’s put aside for a moment the discussion of unsportsmanlike conduct. Let’s not make this a story about Richard Sherman or Michael Crabtree. Of who said what to whom or who was at fault.

Let’s talk about the fact that a not insignificant portion of Americans are appalled, upset, or disgusted to see a large black man showing, perhaps, a little too much exuberance.

I mean, really, let’s talk about that.

*While “they” is not appropriate here grammatically, I continue to use it as a gender-neutral term no matter how many times in my life I’ve been marked down or corrected. So there.


2 thoughts on “The scandalous case of the cornerback who said too much

  1. Felicia Sullivan

    Wow Sarah, I think I was in the same semi-media zone as you. I am so disconnected from sports and what happens in the real that I went through the same sussing out what happened as you.

    I have a couple of good FB friends of color who post meaningful insights and subscribe to more than one alt news site so, I started to care like you when this backlash was seen as having a racial bias.

    When I finally read the quote from Sherman, I thought that doesn’t sound at all “thug-like” and I definitely went to the camp of this is one of those instances of where the behavior of a non-white person is held to some higher standard or is the target for some unsettled white angst over our shifting culture.

    My Seahawks guru Margaret posted this Huffington Post piece by Isaac Saul and its gives me and even greater insight into the complexity of Sherman as a person. We too often don’t see the depth of the sterotyped and hence why we can so readily label.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  2. Sarah Shugars

    Thanks for sharing this article, Felicia!

    I think I first saw the footage on the news without actually hearing what he said…and he didn’t strike me as particularly thug-like then, either. He seemed like a very energized football player who just won a major game. From the response, I almost assumed he must have said something really terrible, so when I actually listened to the audio I was really confused.


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