Just when I was getting tired of hearing Denver Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning shouting “Omaha, Omaha,” there was Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman screaming at me.
To say the least, it was a little unsettling.
He was boasting about the play he had just pulled off to send his team to the Super Bowl while simultaneously ripping Michael Crabtree, the player he was defending.
Sherman was crude and irritating. But I was done with his rant in a few minutes and ready to move on. Besides, his team had throttled my New Orleans Saints twice, and I had stomached all I could of the Seahawks.
The backlash from Sherman’s histrionics has been epic. It has been brutal, and in some ways, racist. He has been called a “thug,” and N-bombs have fallen like raindrops in Twitter world.
Sherman’s apologists have said the public doesn’t really know him. He should be given some slack because he is from a tough ’hood in Oakland, graduated with honors from high school, and he is a graduate of an A-list academic institution, Stanford University. Sherman also helped little old ladies across the street. (OK, I made up the last reference.)
I understand the kudos for his background. But his history has nothing to do with his rant and flashing the choke sign after the game. He is judged by what he did, and when he did it.
Even so, the enormous media coverage and public rage — some of it flat-out racist — is out proportion with his antics.
Some have dropped the “thug” label on him. He was over the top, but a thug?
My guess is many people were bothered more by what Sherman looks like than what he said. To some segments of the population, the combination of Sherman’s dreads and his heated speech reminded them of the feared image of a gangsta rapper or some street tough.
Not long ago, former NBA star Allen Iverson was perceived by some as the embodiment of evil in pro sports because of his tattooed body. Look around college and pro sports now; tattoos are everywhere, and the gangster label associated with “ink” has disappeared because the folks in the suburbs have a few “tats.”
Talk about gangsta. Remember the Monday night football game this year when New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady chased a referee off the field and proceeded to berate and swear at him? I don’t think what Sherman did was as bad as that.
Remember when 49er Coach Jim Harbaugh and former Detroit Lion Coach Jim Swartz almost came to blows and had to be separated by players after a game in 2011? I don’t think what Sherman did reached that level.
Neither the Brady nor the Harbaugh/Swartz incidents raised the ire that Sherman did. Of course, Sherman doesn’t look or sound like those guys.
Let’s be serious. Haven’t we heard Sherman’s act before? Have you ever heard boxers talking before and after their boxing matches? Remember Muhammad Ali?
If Sherman didn’t have dreadlocks, many folks might have let his rant go after a day or so. And maybe if he wasn’t talking to the lovely and white Erin Andrews, some of the racist comments might have never been made.
It’s interestting what Fox reporter Erin Andrews had to say after her interview with Sherman.
“You expect these guys to play like maniacs and animals for 60 minutes,” she said. “And then, 90 seconds after he makes a career-defining, game-changing play, I’m gonna be mad because he’s not giving me a cliché answer, ‘That’s what Seahawks football is all about and that’s what we came to do and we practice for those situations.’ No you don’t. That was awesome. … And I loved it.”
I don’t have a horse in the Super Bowl, but it would be interesting to hear what Sherman has to say if he makes a play to win the game, or if someone beats him for a deciding touchdown.
I’d be willing to hear anything other than “Omaha, Omaha.”
Ed Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.