January 23, 2014

Who's Afraid of the Loud Angry Black Man?

By - Tim Swift

Days after a thrilling NFC Championship Game, I'm still bothered by the way a lot of the country sees Seattle's Richard Sherman.

Photo by: Tony Overman
My initial reaction while watching Sherman's postgame interview at a friend's house was that of sheer laughter. We actually rewound the DVR and watched it several more times because we thought it was so funny. Far too often we get some generic scripted interview after a game that the player doesn't even really mean. I was happy that someone showed some real, raw emotion moments afterwards.

During the interview with Erin Andrews, Sherman proclaimed that he was the best corner in the league, and that Michael Crabtree was a "sorry" receiver. Within a matter of minutes, Twitter and the rest of the internet exploded as if Sherman was public enemy No. 1, and the worst thing to ever happen to sports. It was almost alarming the reactions that people had to a football player, playing a game.

Some of the issues between the two started last year, when reportedly Sherman tried to shake Crabtree's hand at a charity event hosted by Larry Fitzgerald and the wideout refused to reciprocate. Much of the animosity has nothing to do with football, so I wasn't all that shocked when Sherman reacted the way he did after getting the best of his rival to clinch a berth to the Super Bowl.

Sherman was a 5th round pick out of Stanford in 2011, and part of the reason that he plays with such a chip on his shoulder is because he felt that he fell entirely too far in the draft and was better than many of the guys that were taken ahead of him.

Last year, after Seattle's win over New England, Sherman got in Tom Brady's grill, presumably to tell him how great he thinks he is, and that moment was captured in a photo that blew up on Twitter after the cornerback added the caption, "U Mad Bro?" For all intents and purposes, that was the moment Richard Sherman became a household name in NFL circles.

For people who like their sports without a racial discussion, avert your eyes. If say, Brady or Peyton Manning had the same reaction as Sherman in one of their postgame interviews, would there been this type of reaction? Absolutely not. An example; after New England lost to Carolina on Monday Night Football earlier this season, Brady followed the officiating crew up the tunnel off the field, and he sure as hell wasn't congratulating them for a well officiated game. The media didn't blow that up into a huge story.

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh constantly flails his arms around like he's trying to get out of a damn straight jacket and screams at the top of his lungs throughout the course of a game. But when he does that, he's labeled "passionate" or "intense." When Sherman exhibited some of that same intensity minutes after he made the most important play of his career, he was deemed a "thug," among other things.

Ah yes, that word; thug. I told a friend of mine the other day that the word thug has replaced other racial slurs in many people's vocabulary when describing an African-American athlete that they don't like. Sherman has never been arrested, and by all accounts, is a decent person off the field. But some folks see the dreadlocks and the loud talk and immediately brand him a hooligan who can't control himself. That's comical, because I was unaware that thugs finish second in their high school class and graduate from a college like Stanford in 3 years.

In sports, you need different types of personalities to truly make things interesting. I'll always love the great Barry Sanders for simply tossing the ball to the official after a breathtaking 60-yard touchdown run, same as I'll always appreciate Richard Sherman for his ability to get in someone's head with relentless trash talk and physical play. That's one of the beauties of sports. You need passion from both ends of the spectrum. Whether you say nothing at all or scream to the heavens after each and every play, you have to have some variation of passion to reach a professional level of excellence.

I was a little disappointed when I heard that Sherman apologized for what he said, because I don't feel that he said anything that warranted an apology in the first place. If anything, he should have stood by his statements, because the fact of the matter is, some people are always going to have a major issue with the "loud angry black man." The reactions to Sherman's interview confirmed that.

When I woke up Monday morning and saw some of the things that were being said, I got angry myself. It took me back to the very proclamation that started our fascination with Sherman, both positively and negatively, to begin with; "U Mad Bro?"

Yeah. They certainly are.


  1. Great post and interesting read. I did agree with all of what was said, right up until you pulled the race card. Sherman's interview was hilarious and it was ridiculous that the media blew it up into a negative thing. Guys like Sherman, who play Corner, get little to no appreciation and needless to say it's a tough life. If you're good at your job, for the most part, you go unnoticed. I like his attitude and passion.

    However, Brady's tunnel incident did receive a lot of negative media speculation, even as somebody who is generally well respected. I read it in many places that Brady was out of line and his reaction was childish. Much the same for Jim Harbaugh. I've read COUNTLESS articles about what a loser he is and about his sideline antics and them being a disgrace to the game. Not to mention, what Richie Incognito did blew up more than this incident and it wasn't even in front of the entire world. Not condoning what he did, but it is the kind of thing that happens to new players. If Jonathan Martin didn't grow up spoon-fed some legal bull*&^$ from his lawyer parents, he wouldn't have gone crying to them.

    Why did I bring up Jonathan Martin? Because I've heard him called a thug, many more times than I've heard it about Sherman. I've also heard that Aaron Hernandez is a thug (which he is). "Thug" isn't an African-American thing, it's a term for violent people, which some might now think Sherman is. I don't think Sherman did anything wrong, but I think it's a little cliche, and frankly way too easy to just blame it on racism. This is not a race issue.

  2. I'll respectfully disagree about the coverage that Brady and Harbaugh got in comparison to Richard Sherman. Also in my experiences when the word thug is used about an athlete its seems to me that it is used way more about black players than others.

  3. Brad Heerschop is absolutely correct in his assessment. Brady was hammered on social media, and he, too, apologized. The biggest difference in those two situations is that Brady was seen as fighting for his team following a loss, while Sherman was seen (correctly, in my opinion) as doing something to call attention to himself, which was detracting attention from his team. Both were childish, but fans will forgive when it's at least intentioned to be for the team vs. for a "look how great I am" moment. And Harbaugh is just a jackass. Everyone knows it, and he doesn't care. The disgust for Sherman has nothing to do with race, and more to do with ego.

  4. Ok guys then explain to me the cries of monkey and nigger of Sherman minutes after the game all over social media, yes ego it is part of the equation but its not the only reason for disgust.

    1. Again, I'll maintain that it was less about Brady's race and more about the fact that he was arguing for his team, not for himself. Still wrong, but a different motivation. It was a team moment, where Sherman's was a ME moment.

  5. If you think the color of Sherman's skin isn't a factor in all this you're a fool. After that interview an NBA player (whose name slips my mind) immediately tweeted that Sherman "just set us back 500 years." Who do you think he meant by "us" exactly? He meant African Americans.

  6. Also we weren't talking about Brady in a negative light 4 days after his blowup on MNF and yes Brady was hammered on social media but not every talking head with a mic was talking about it for days after.

  7. Andre Iguodala was the NBA player that tweeted that, and he wasn't the only athlete that agreed with it being about race. Black people think it was, white people say it wasn't. Big surprise.

  8. You guys are being a bit naïve if you think race isn't part of the equation here. Anytime someone of color is involved, race comes into play. It's the world we live in.

  9. If you act like a pompous ass you should expect some backlash regardless of your skin color.

  10. I can't speak for everyone else. I'm sure there are idiots will make anything about race, both blacks and whites. The only thing that I can tell you is that if ANYONE acted the way Sherman did after a game, he should be taken to task for it. The argument has been made by many that the blame should lie with the network or Erin Andrews for interviewing him so quickly after a play that was filled with adrenaline, expecting that he couldn't have had time to come down from his high. I can show you a clip of Chris Davis after he returned the missed FG in the Iron Bowl 109 yards for a TD to cap off an amazing win. There is no one who could possibly have more adrenaline in his body than that guy did, yet, his comments were calm, gathered, and he kept saying, "This is a team win, it ain't about me." He conducted himself like a man, not a raving lunatic. He is African American. For me, it isn't about color, it's about actions, and Sherman's actions were ridiculous.

    But I also understand that this generation is about the swag and the trash talk. To me, it comes from not respecting anything or anyone.

  11. What Brady did isn't remotely close to being the same that Sherman did. Stupid comparison.

  12. The pic goes perfect with the article. lol Nice post Tim.

  13. Apparently Keith is trying to set a record for most comments left under different Google profiles. Lol