Richard Sherman on Wednesday said that the only thing that he regretted about his fiery post-game interview after the NFC Championship on Sunday was that it distracted the media and fans from the play of his teammates and the victory he’d earned.
But that wasn’t all that bothered him. So, too, did the fact that so many fans and media figures were quick to brand him a “thug.”
“The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays,” Sherman said during a press conference in Seattle. “It’s like everybody else said the N-word and then they say thug. And that’s fine. That’s where it’s kind of, you know, it kind of takes me aback. And it’s kind of disappointing because they know. What’s the definition of a thug, really?”
“I’ve fought that my whole life just coming from where I come from,” Sherman, who’s from Compton, California, said. “Just because you hear Compton, you hear Watts, you hear cities like that, you just think ‘thug,’ ‘he’s a gangster,’ ‘he’s this, that, and the other.’ Then you hear Stanford, and they’re like, ‘Aw, man, that doesn’t even make sense. That’s an oxymoron.’ You fight it for so long and to have it come back up and people start to use it again, it’s frustrating.”
The day after the interview, the word “thug” was used some 625 times on television, more than it had been used on any single day in the past three years, according to a Deadspin analysis. And most of it was used with the same connotation that racist terms like the n-word would have been used once. Sherman is too loud. Too boisterous. Too…black.
Some of the people who hear this won’t be convinced. Some of them, especially the people who skipped right past “thug” and went all the way, won’t care to be convinced. To those people, nothing Sherman says or does will be enough. But good for Sherman for laying it plain, because there are plenty who should listen to his words and learn from them. And if that isn’t enough, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Greg Howard both wrote fantastic pieces on the racial elements of the backlash Sherman faced. Both are worth a read.