Since the NFC Title game, few have recalled the qualities of the Seattle Seahawks’ defense and what made it the NFL’s best. Instead the focus has been on one man, Richard Sherman, and his post game interview that saw him call out an opponent and proclaim his own superiority when asked a routine question about the game-ending play.
Since then, many have taken to social media, and beyond, to opine and mainstream news media has picked up a story which went from immature dunce-in-the-heat-of-the-moment postgame interview to racially charged everyone-and-their-aunt-has an-opinion matter.
But there’s the reality of being a professional athlete and especially the face of a franchise: YOU GET CRITICIZED. A LOT. Especially for dumb stuff, as well as real stuff.
Sherman was fairly criticized for taking that moment to shine the spotlight on himself. It was a total team effort that beat the 49ers for the chance to go to Super Bowl XLVIII. And he has since apologized for his immaturity. He’s only in his 3rd year as a professional; I assume he’ll learn from this.
Sherman was unfairly criticized for the manner in which he stole the spotlight. He was called a lot of names, some petty, some angry, some mean, and most notably, a thug. He said he was “disappointed” with that term, saying it’s replacing the N-word and he, and others, assumed some of those unfair criticisms were falling his way because he’s black. That simply isn’t true.
The reality is franchise guys get ripped on ALL THE TIME simply for being themselves…
Tom Brady gets made fun of for his Ugg commercials, his GQ style, having a super model wife and a mote at his California home.
Eli Manning takes mean-spirited shots for his facial expressions. Really mean.
Tim Tebow gets laughed at for his virginity and religion. Relentlessly.
Mark Sanchez is comedic fodder for his hairstyle and proclivity to run into the posterior end of his linemen.
Peyton Manning is supposedly awful in the cold and in the postseason (apparently he required a historically historic season to dispel this notion) and has taken so much criticism for the large size of his head, a popular twitter account was developed and has more than 97,000 followers.
Tony Romo is a choke artist.
Philip Rivers is a troublemaker.
Colin Kaepernick is punk.
Dez Bryant has been labeled a brat.
When you’re the face of the franchise, or the most vocal member of the team, you will get criticized and vilified for ridiculous, illogical and inconsequential matters as much as you’ll get venerated for ridiculous, illogical and inconceivably athletic plays.
Sherman’s jersey is now among the Top-10 best selling jerseys in the league.
People are running to the rescue, defending not only him from the criticism but also excusing his admittedly bad behavior, not understanding he’s faced down far greater obstacles than this. He just needs to get a thicker skin and not take things so personally.
So while some erroneously called him a “thug” and others conclude that is a racially charged term, I’d ask: What’s it called when Tebow is mocked on Saturday Night Live, or when Sanchez is ridiculed or Romo is heckled? Humor? Opinion? Or part of the territory?
As far as racism, there will always be people of any color, sex, creed or culture that harbor ill-will towards others based on their color, sex, creed and culture. Assuming the few with ill-will speak for all who offer criticism is shortsighted. Furthermore, the only way to change those perceptions is to showcase a different reality on a consistent basis.
Last week, Sherman starred in a commercial where he was asked about his reputation of being a thug, is it any wonder that people are using that word to describe him now? "Beats By Dre" made that connection with Sherman and blasted it out for all to hear, many times over. Fair? Nope. Predictable? Yup. Racist? No.
Starting now. Sherman should walk past the criticism, fair and unfair, and play the game he loves for the fans who love him in the biggest game of his career.