People are still talking about Richard Sherman’s post-game “rant” after his decisive play sealed victory—and a Super Bowl invitation—for the Seattle Seahawks. But if I were Richard Sherman’s mom, I wouldn’t be chastising him for being brash or unsportsmanlike. I’d be beaming with pride that I’d raised such a courageous, accomplished and confident son.
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Let’s rewind to the moment that Richard Sherman started trending on Twitter. Moments after he tipped a pass and crushed the San Francisco 49ers hopes of tying the game in the final seconds, he was interviewed briefly by Fox’s Erin Andrews. Was it loud? Yes. Was it a rant? Possibly. Was it confusing for fans who didn’t know the context of Sherman’s dissing of 49er Michael Crabtree? Yes. Was it uncharacteristic for a postgame interview, when players are supposed to utter a few polite, generic lines about what a good game it was and how tough their competition was? Yes.
But here’s a few things the important interview wasn’t. It wasn’t profanity laced. There were no words to “bleep” out for national television. It wasn’t an interview with a “thug” from Compton who only got out of the projects thanks to his skills on the football field. And, as the context of the backstory and a videotape have shown us, it wasn’t unjustified.
Instead, that interview was from a student who graduated high school with a 4.2 and went on to graduate from Stanford University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. And he didn’t achieve this because he got lucky or because he could catch a football. He did it through hard work, determination and with the help of parents who work tirelessly to make sure their son beat the odds in a city where the majority of young black men wind up dead or in jail.
As Isaac Saul so eloquently points out in his op-ed on Sherman, that interview was also from a successful, well-paid football player who has “never been arrested, never cursed in a post-game interview, never been accused of being a dirty player, started his own charitable non-profit, and won an appeal in the only thing close to a smudge on his record.” That interview was also from a player who has never been arrested for possession of drugs or illegal weapons, for DUI or domestic violence. He’s never been jailed for torturing and killing animals in a dogfighting ring. That interview was from a young black man who grew up and came into professional football well aware of the quiet racism and prejudice of low expectations that he runs up against every day, and which has shown itself loud and clear in this most recent incident.
So if I was Richard Sherman’s mom, I might give him a little bit of a talking to, and tell him to try to keep his cool next time. Or I might not. But I would definitely tell him how proud I was of him. And before he goes on the field to play in his first Super Bowl, I’d tell him to go kick some ass.