Whether you believe he’s the best corner in the game or just another arrogant athlete, it’s hard to deny Richard Sherman a place in the spotlight. After he made arguably the biggest play in Seattle’s 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Champion game, Sherman made several dramatic postgame comments that are still shaking the media world today.
The 49ers, down six points following a Seattle field goal, drove down to the red zone, threatening victory with 22 seconds to go. That’s when Sherman stepped in. On a Colin Kaepernick pass destined for the end zone, Sherman tipped up the ball, which was intercepted by Seahawks linebacker Michael Smith in the end zone. In his postgame interview, however, was where he made clear his penchant for the dramatics.
Speaking to FOX reporter Erin Andrews after the game, Sherman said (yelled, really), “I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get! Don’t you EVER talk about me – Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’ll shut it for you real quick.”
The events reportedly began when the two players faced off at a charity event in Arizona hosted by Larry Fitzgerald. Crabtree reportedly tried to start a fight and refused to shake hands with Sherman at the event, and bad blood has boiled between the two since.
Two distinct camps have emerged on Sherman’s reaction, and I’m here to tell you which side of the debate I fall on.
Clearly, some opinions have crossed a line, including those blatantly attacking Sherman due to his race (how an event like this transpired into another racial debate, I’ll never know), but some were more reserved, including that of ESPN inside reporter Chris Cotillo, who tweeted, “If you’re trying to show your kids what to be like when they grown up, show them Richard Sherman and tell them to do the exact opposite.”
Really, Mr. Cotillo? You don’t want your kids to graduate second in their class in high school (Sherman was Salutatorian at Dominguez High School), graduate on a football scholarship from Stanford and become a Pro Bowl cornerback who made the decisive play in the NFC Championship game to send his team to the Super Bowl? All because of a non-profane rant just mere minutes after clinching the victory?
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to endorse Sherman’s rant, but it was at the very least refreshing. I, for one, would rather see a million interviews like Sherman’s rather than listen to another postgame interviewee spout the same ten clichs over and over again (‘They played their hearts out… ’, ‘We treated it like any other game… ’, ‘We have to get ready for next week all over again, we can’t dwell on the past…’).
Sherman plays the game of football well, and he plays with the utmost passion. It’s often said that in the heat of the moment we learn the most about a person, and what we learned about Richard Sherman is that he puts everything he has into a game he loves. In a column for Sports Illustrated immediately following the game, Sherman wrote, “To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field – don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.”
Sherman apologized for his choice in words and for attacking a single player the day after the contest, in addition to writing a very well articulated column on his viewpoint on the situation for SI. In the spirit of not judging his character as he appears on the field, he appears to be wholly and honestly apologetic; not for what he said, but for how he said it and the negative repercussions for his team. In the end, that’s all you can ask of an NFL player: for them to give their all in-between the lines and for them to conduct themselves with class and responsibility once they step off. Richard Sherman has demonstrated both those qualities to me since well before his Stanford days, never having been arrested, having started a charitable non-profit, having come from one of the worst neighborhoods (Compton, Calif) in the country, rising to the top.
What all the negative feedback, the hate, the totally unveiled racism tells me, sadly, is that the United States is not yet ready for a story like his. The U.S. is not ready to accept someone who has truly ascended from the bottom of the barrel to emphatic screams signaling that he has finally reached the top. We still judge books by their cover and even after an off-season in which 32 separate NFL players (Sherman nowhere close to said list) were arrested from charges of homicide to DUI, Richard Sherman is still in the spotlight. And while he’s seemingly fine with it, he and other players like him are there all too often for all the wrong reasons.