I preface this post with the fact that I am in no way an aficionado of sports, but I am a major humanist and a student of understanding the human condition. I live in a football household that is taken hostage until the Super Bowl. Televised events that are shocking, uncomfortable or intriguing promote conversation among all of us. This country has had a long relationship with sports entertainment.
In the latest sports entertainment chapter, NFL player Richard Sherman of the Seattle SeaHawks gave a colorful on field interview after making a game changing play that led his team to a championship victory. Some would say the prolific play backed up all the talk about Sherman being if not one of the best, but the best corner back in the NFL. Sherman is a 25-year-old Stanford graduate from Compton who spends his free time studying plays. He has beat insurmountable odds that make his accomplishments even more distinguished. With his talent and accomplishments aside, Sherman is being stereotyped as being a “thug” in the media after his interview where he proclaimed his title as best corner back in the league. His comments included a critique of Michael Crabtree’s performance, a player from the opposing team, the San Francisco 49ers. The interview has been labeled distasteful, classless and egotistical. In sports there is a level of bragging, ranting and overall “shit talking” that is apart of the culture. It happens among players, coaches and fans in every sport from baseball to football, major and minor leagues. Sherman in many ways was reacting in the way many athletes have been conditioned to respond. I do not believe he was out of line after remembering the great athlete egomaniacs before him like Deion Sanders.
I’m not against pro athletes with big egos. I’m not against loud mouth shit talkers, but I am against those that want to paint young black men as thugs. Thug is being used to keep black men in their “place”. It is the generational equivalent to the derogatory term nigger. It is now accepted that the word nigger is not used openly in our society so it has to be replaced with something. A code word to tip the conscious or subconscious cue that this person who is being describe as a thug is an undesirable who should be treated as such. Terms like ratchet, ghetto and thot are used in the same way. Thug was used to dehumanize Trayvon Martin, is being used to “humble” Richard Sherman and demonizes a generation of young black men. Everyone is side stepping the stinking hot pile of classicism and racism that is at the heart of this conversation. Is Sherman as thug because he’s from Compton? Is he a thug because he bragged on his talent? Is Richard Sherman a thug because he is a black man? We must ask if a white player of equal talent and credentials made the same comments as Sherman would they be labeled a thug.