Richard Sherman's epic postgame rant didn't scare Erin Andrews, but it sure shocked the hell out of America.
Some of my fiercest debates ever on Twitter and around the "water cooler" at work have been with people who are outraged about Sherman's infamous postgame interview with Andrews. But when I asked what he said that made them despise him so vehemently, not one...zero...zilch, bothered to explain their feelings.
That suggests to me that they really don't know or care what he said because all they saw was a loud, aggressive, black man shouting at a blonde white woman. To all too many of them, Andrews was the proverbial "fair damsel in distress" and there was this rush to judgement...to be on her side, to save her from a thug--even though the damsel herself says she enjoyed the interview with Sherman and wanted it to go on.
I ask those of you who are so outraged about Sherman's antics this question: Did the sight and sounds of Tom Brady literally chasing a referee off the field and cussing him out after a game on national TV make you equally upset? If not, then perhaps you should ask yourself why not?
And possibly chief among those who should ask themselves that is Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander who was so bothered by the sideline interview that he angrily tweeted: "If he (Sherman) played baseball would get a high and tight fastball."
What I saw in that interview was an exhausted, excited, articulate football player getting the last word on his arch nemisis on the last play of the game. He didn't say anything disrespectful to Andrews. He didn't use profanity. He even lauded his teammates. See for yourself. Here's a short video of the actual interview:
In essence, as he was winding down, Sherman ripped 49ers' receiver Michael Crabtree after obviously going after him physically and verbally during a hard-fought, emotionally draining game. That's what got Verlander and millions of others--including thousands of racists--so riled up? C'mon man. Who are the thugs here?
In my opinion, it's far more crass and unsportsmanlike to go after a referee spitting and hurling F-bombs than it is to be hyped up talking smack about an opponent you vanquished seconds ago and then have a microphone shoved into your face in the heat of the moment, while the adrenaline is still pumping. But that's just me...I digress.
Anyway, even more alarming and damning are the number of racist tweets sent to and about Sherman. The common thread among those hateful communiques being that he's a black, ignorant, loud-mouthed thug. Black? Obviously. Loud-mouthed? Okay. Ignorant thug? Oh hell, no.
Richard Sherman graduated second in his high school class and went on to graduate from presitigious Stanford University. He also launched his own charitable nonprofit group called Blanket Coverage – The Richard Sherman Family Foundation. Its mission is to level the playing field for children enrolled in grades K-12 who have a strong combination of potential, goals and a desire to make the most of their education. Hardly the stuff thugs are made of.
In his masterful Huffington Post article titled, What Richard Sherman Taught Us About America, Isaac Saul tells us about the "real" Sherman and ourselves. Here's an excerpt:
But from my perspective, the heat Sherman is getting is not just misguided but ludicrous. This is a guy who represents one of the best kinds of sports stories there is in the world: the rise from the bottom, the profound destruction of obstacles, the honest success story built by a foundation of hard work and loving parents. If anyone with a brain took the time to learn about Richard Sherman, and then put him in the context of the rest of the National Football League, he'd be a pretty hard guy to bash.Saul also wrote with pinpoint accuracy:
Last night, when Richard Sherman went on his rant to Erin Andrews, most of America thought they were learning about the arrogance of another NFL player. But in reality, what Richard Sherman did was teach us about ourselves. He taught us that we're still a country that isn't ready for lower-class Americans from neighborhoods like Compton to succeed. We're still a country that can't decipher a person's character. But most of all, he taught us that no matter what you overcome in your life, we're still a country that can't accept someone if they're a little louder, a little prouder, or a little different from the people we surround ourselves with.Wow. Saul nailed it.
The not so subliminal message America is sending to its black males: Unless you're entertaining us on a field, on a court, on a diamond or inside a ring we don't want to see or hear you being bold or aggressive. Be subservient. Be humble. Be meek. Otherwise, we'll see you as the uncouth threats we already believe you are...while we revere and see similar behavior from guys like Tom Brady as fiery and spirited.
A Twitter friend said that if that had been Ray Lewis holding that microphone instead of Erin Andrews this really wouldn't have erupted into anywhere near the controversy that it has become.
I wholeheartedly agree. But it also would not have given us another candid shot of the ingrained American attitudes that Isaac Saul so eloquently described.
I saw a little bit of Muhammad Ali in Sherman during that interview. And I loved it. And I share the sentiments tweeted to Sherman by another legendary American athlete, Hank Aaron:
@RSherman_25 - hang in there & keep playing as well as you did Sunday. Excellent job - you have my support.
1:48 PM - 21 Jan 2014