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Pushback On Richard Sherman Debate: 'He Is The Antithesis Of The Dumb Jock Stereotype'

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks cornerback, speaks at a news conference after Seattle beat the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship on Sunday.

The Seattle Seahawks booked their ticket to the Super Bowl by winning the NFC Championship on Sunday, but not without some controversy.

When Erin Andrews of Fox Sports grabbed Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman for a post-game interview, he looked right into the camera and said, “I’m the best corner in the game and when you try me against a sorry receiver like Crabtree that’s the results you going to get.”

Sherman had tipped away a pass aimed at San Francisco 49er's Michael Crabtree. The Seahawks’ Malcolm Smith caught the ball for an interception, ensuring Seattle’s win.

The remarks sparked a media flurry and large social media response, including a variety of insulting remarks. Dave Zirin, sportswriter for The Nation, told David Hyde on KUOW’s The Record that much of the backlash is racially-based; sometimes in the form of racial-coding – like calling Sherman a “thug” and that he has no class – and other times with outright racial tropes and slurs.

Zirin argued that Sherman’s background argues against the negative response he has received. Sherman grew up in a working-class family in Compton, Los Angeles. He went to Stanford and worked his way from a fifth-round draft pick to be a likely pick for NFL’s defensive player of the year, according to Zirin.

“For all the people calling him dumb, the response is he graduated from Stanford. For all the people who are calling him ‘stupid thug,’ you point back to his amazing charity work. For all the people calling him stupid and inarticulate, he’s been writing a column for Sports Illustrated and has had it in on deadline for the last six months which is frankly more than a lot professional journalists.

“In every conceivable way, he is the antithesis of the dumb jock stereotype, and that has allowed people who aren’t racist to use this as a moment to actually push back against what frankly often happens after a sporting event involving black athletes and say, ‘Wait a minute, you should actually listen to what this guy has to say,’” said Zirin

Zirin said he is concerned that the narrative leading up to the Super Bowl will also have underlying racial themes, instead of a match-up of equal players.

“I have deep concerns about this narrative for a very basic reason: Peyton Manning [the Denver Broncos’ quarterback] is often presented – there’s no other way of putting this – as a ‘white knight.’ He’s the best quarterback in football, he’s often described – quite correctly – as being cerebral, studious and incredibly intelligent,” Zirin said. “I would argue that Richard Sherman is just as cerebral, just as intelligent; both of them play a ton of psychological gamesmanship. And yet for Peyton Manning that’s proof of his genius and gamesmanship, while Richard Sherman it’s proof that he’s a thug and a punk.”

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.

Year started with KUOW: 2004