Richard Sherman Is Better Than a Thug

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nfl_a_rshts_200x300He arrived in the big city for the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. The swarm of reporters clustered around Richard Sherman’s podium during a press conference held at the team hotel in Jersey City Sunday night.

He was clearly the first and only defensive back in NFL history who has drawn more attention than a starting quarterback, with at least 10 TV cameras and more than 100 reporters looking to create controversial headlines. It’s not too often that we hear about a player having an emotional outburst in front of the camera during a nationally televised interview, and then becoming a household name. It’s not too often that we hear about a defensive back turning a verbal attack into a $5 million endorsement deal.

But it’s often that we hear about African-American athletes receiving backlash and racially charged insults via social media as if America has not moved beyond racism. Sherman reminded us that not every man of color is a “thug,” even though a vast majority of black athletes are labeled thugs simply because of the stereotypes about the black athlete and because we live in a nation where the cessation of ignorance is unlikely. He also reminded us that racism is still alive and well in America.

It was a week ago when Sherman delivered a trash-talking rant that stunned the nation and went viral following the Seahawks 23-17 victory to clinch a Super Bowl berth. So now he’s not characterized as the NFL’s scariest defensive back and instead is officially the most hated villain and a lightning rod. This is proof that America is overly sensitive, as the Internet is a weapon of choice and a place where trolls can pick apart pro athletes and celebrities. That doesn’t mean he’s public enemy No. 1 after spewing noise that was heard loudly around the world.

He is a Stanford graduate with a 3.9 grade-point average. He is not stupid and ignorant. He is intelligent and unafraid to speak his mind. He doesn’t talk in clichés. He is a brilliant actor who was smart enough to try a marketing tactic. This is football’s most hyperbolic week, and because Sherman’s rant is a week old, he’s the star attraction. As you’ve probably noticed, Sherman is the anchor of his Seattle defense, the story of Super Bowl XLVIII, known for his big mouth and dreadlocks.

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Sherman, age 25, has become more popular than Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. He achieved celebrity status and has been the focus of attention after he screamed on national TV like a pro wrestler. Why are you treating this man like a convicted felon, America? Why are you identifying him as a criminal, America?

This happened when he tipped away a potential game-winning pass from 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and into the arms of Malcolm Smith. Then came the epic outburst. Sherman was denigrated on Twitter and called a thug across the country for his hostile postgame rant. So everyone watching a week ago figured he was classless and thuggish and not an inspiration to young athletes who value their education as much as playing sports. Growing up in a rough neighborhood south of Los Angeles in Compton, he avoided the gang life and was a straight A student in high school.

He is a black man. He’s not a criminal. He is not a thug. He has not once committed a crime. He’s not a gangster or an assassin — on the football field, yes, but otherwise he’s a good guy, he’s a smart guy and he’s a charity worker. Sherman, an All-Pro cornerback who is making a case for defensive player of the year, has to reach in his pocket and pull out his wallet after showing poor sportsmanship.

And yes, he most definitely has to take his punishment like the loudmouth he is. Not surprisingly, the NFL fined him $7,875 on Friday for taunting the 49ers. It was nothing more but trash talking from an outspoken African-American who was screaming about how great of a defensive back he is, and the rant was so powerful that the resentment toward Sherman’s belligerent response produced disgusting and offensive comments. And after that, following the Internet diatribes, he equated “thug” label as a politer use of the N-Word.

If half of America is rooting for Denver, it’s probably because the Seahawks are labeled America’s most hated football team. Sherman knows he’s the latest buzz on the street, especially in the world’s largest media market. It’s been that kind of week for Sherman, who is getting a great deal of recognition for all the wrong reasons. Sherman isn’t Aaron Hernandez, and the two have little in common, when former Patriots tight end is accused of murder.

I never realized acting like an antagonistic clown in front of a microphone was a crime, unless I’m missing something here. It’s about free speech, well, at least it should be about that. Truth is, he’s done nothing wrong. Truth is, he’s a fiery, emotional competitor who talks his trash and walks the walk.

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