Imagine this: you just had the single greatest moment of your professional life. You closed the biggest sale, you signed the biggest client, you bested your biggest competitor. A moment later, you go up to your competition to shake their hand, and they shove you in the face.
How would you feel?
When it happened to Richard Sherman on Sunday night he was understandably angry. When you’re angry you say things you don’t mean and you lash out at people who don’t deserve it. Sherman yelled at sideline reporter Erin Andrews in a heated moment, and now he’s the biggest villain in all of sports. It doesn’t matter that Sherman later apologized. It doesn’t matter that Michael Crabtree antagonized him, or that he was riding a wave of emotion at the peak of his career. America doesn’t care. Sherman has been judged guilty by a vindictive court of public opinion that relishes forever condemning someone based on one incident.
It’s extremely unfortunate that this was how Sherman was introduced to a worldwide audience. People may have known about him before, but there is no stage like the Super bowl. The eyes of the whole world are now on the Seattle Seahawks and Sherman is suddenly in the center of a media storm on a global scale.
That Sherman was the number two student in his high school class or graduated from Stanford with a ridiculous GPA will be forgotten. This interview is likely to follow Sherman for the rest of his life and it’s a terrible shame. I’m not defending what Sherman said or his tone. He came off as aggressive, and like any reasonable person, he apologized. That should have been the end of it.
The real story here shouldn’t be about Sherman shocking a pretty reporter, it should be the incredibly hateful, racist reactions by some people. Since the end of the game dozens of fans have been sending racist messages and veiled threats directed at Sherman via social media. I could list some of them for reference but I don’t want to give an outlet to that kind of ignorance. If you’re really determined to read them you can find them on Deadspin.
But most people don’t want to talk about the racists. They want to portray Sherman as a thug and a classless loudmouth and they won’t let any evidence to the contrary deter them. Forget about his charity work. Forget about his diligent academic history. He’s a heel for all time to a certain cross-section of society that couldn’t last a week at any university, let alone Stanford.
The fact that this outporing of racist loathing directed Sherman’s way came on Martin Luther King day is highly instructive. As far as the civil rights movement has come over the last sixty-odd years, there’s still a long way to go. That Sherman is a brilliant athlete poised to make millions of dollars playing our most beloved sport and yet will likely be villified forever because of one small misstep speaks volumes about the sorry state of our race relations.
If anything from the game should have schocked the national conscience, it should have been Navarro Bowman’s gruesome injury, or the fact that someone threw snacks at him while he was being carted off the field. But since all the violence in football is cool, we don’t have any problem with that.
Sherman plays a game for our entertainment where he might suffer a crippling injury at any time, and we’re going to label him a monster for yelling at somebody?
Seriously, America. You need to get out more.
If the Seahawks were characters in Game of Thrones, who would they be?