Wednesday, January 29, 2014


God damn, you'd think Richard Sherman was the coming of the anti-Christ.  At least, that how many white folks reacted when the extremely talented and bright Seattle defensive back spoke his piece after a spectacular play which brought to a close the conference championship game with San Francisco.  I'm not going into his comments here.  It's been almost a week and half since them, you've seen them.  You have probably even heard about a lot of the racist, white supremacist backtalk thrown his way since.

Nothing unusual really.  Whenever a black athlete has the gall to speak out, to speak his mind, to not play the game the way the white folks and the media want him to play, they get hell.  Then the media figured out that Sherman was an interesting story and the racist reaction wasn't really all that cool, and that calling him a thug was just another way of calling him the N word.  So they started to back off.  Instead they started honing in on his academic qualifications it seems to point out that while he looked and acted like a "thug," he really wasn't that "kind of a black person."  They don't even get their own racism.  Of course not.  

At the Gawker this observation is made,

Serena Williams is a "ghetto thug" for arguing with an umpire—John McEnroe was presumably less ghetto and thuggish when he regularly berated refs throughout his career; LeBron James is a thug just because this sports fan says so, because "I just don't like LeBron James or the way the NBA forces himself upon us, the fans and the media."

(One would be remiss to not also note that murdered black teenager Trayvon Martin's body had barely been in the ground before people were slandering him as a thug who got what was coming to him.)

There are other ways people try and deride black athletes—and teachers and lawyers and presidents and students buying skittles—and their various behaviors, of course, including adjectives like "tacky" and appeals to class. Many said Richard Sherman is "classless," for instance, because he raised his voice and showed too much pride and too little sportsmanship.

America loves its black athletes. It loves to watch them jump high and run fast. It loves to watch them punch each other in rings and tackle each other on fields, occasionally so violently that they tear each other's ligaments and break each other's bones and concuss each other. America loves to do all of this so much that it's willing to devote innumerable hours and billions of dollars to the practice. But all that love can be abusive and fleeting, and woe be unto the black athletes who step out of line in America.

Yes, white America loves its black athletes, but only if they behave properly and no where to sit on the bus.

M. Shadee Malaklou writes at Racialicious:

White supremacist culture dictates who and who does not get to be human. In order for people of color to receive a Human Card, they must assimilate: they must not use slang. They must be quiet. They must not wear hoodies. They must not curse. They must be gracious at all times. They must enunciate. They must not talk about racism. They must not listen to rap music. They must not sag. They must not brag. They must not laugh in public. They must not take up more than one seat on the bus. They must not ever ask for more. In short, you must be perfect. Robotic. Even if you are a professional athlete who performs for millions of Americans, playing a game in which aggression, testosterone, and energy are rewarded (demanded)… you must be quiet, gracious, calm, unassuming. Unscary. To be black and also be regarded as human, you must never make a mistake in your entire life, ever—ever—or you are a thug. Ghetto. Other. Your Human Card is denied.

To be sure stepping out of line is a different thing for a black athlete then a white one. 

Want to know a thug football player.  How about Ben Roethlisberger?  Name ring a bell?  If not google him and sexual assault.  How about most of the players in the NHL, who spend as much time beating on each other as playing the game. Lance Armstrong is a thug. Dodger pitcher Brian Wilson, following a ballgame gets to accost and yell at Giants CEO Larry Baer, without anyone daring to label him a thug.  Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt to celebrate a soccer victory and everyone loved it.  When the black men of the 2000 Olympics gold medal 4X100 removed their shirts in celebration it was termed a disgrace.  It gets old.

Anyway,below is a post from our old friend Dave Zirn at Edge of Sports.  You may want to go back and read his earlier article as well.

Richard Sherman’s Latest and his Refusal to Be a Brand

I was done writing about Super Bowl bound Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. I was done writing about the polarizing, perspicacious, Pro Bowler who with one iconic post-game interview morphed into our latest national Rorschach test about racism and sports. I was done partly because I had already written about him and partly because others have said it better. (Find great articles about Sherman and race herehere and here.) I also didn’t want to write again about the man who made the journey from Compton to Stanford to NFL glory because we seem to be entering a place where his five-star post-game rant has crossed a line from rebellion to commodification. His marketing agent, Jamie Fritz, has been making the media rounds, telling the advertising trades that since Sherman said “CRABTREE” at volume ten, his phone has been ringing off the hook. “We haven’t seen a guy like this in a while,” Fritz gushed to Ad Age.“Richard’s a guy who’s going to speak his mind. And that makes people very curious. We have data that Richard is single-handedly growing the Seattle Seahawks fan base in Middle America—where [Seahawks] fans would not exist.”
It just did not seem interesting to write about another athlete Madison Avenue was attempting to turn into a rebel with no cause. But then, Richard Sherman took the microphone again this week and said something that needed to be said, something that won’t help him sell Big Macs to pre-schoolers. Facing the press on Wednesday, Sherman spoke about the avalanche of racist garbage he has faced since Sunday, trash that includes not only the social media barrage of racial epithets, but also being called a “thug” repeatedly in the mainstream media.
Sherman said, “The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays. It’s like everyone else said the N-word and they said ‘Thug’ and they’re like, ‘Ah, that’s fine.’ That’s where it kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing.” He then brought up the decades long double standard of how fighting in the almost entirely white NHL is viewed with a yawn but so much as raised voices from black athletes are greeted as a national calamity. Referencing a recent brawl between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, Sherman said, “What’s the definition of a thug really? Maybe I’m talking loudly and doing something I’m not supposed to. But I’m not.… there was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and said, ‘Oh, man. I’m the thug? What’s going on here?’ ”
Richard Sherman said something that has needed to be said since Jack Johnson commented that he would be Jim Jeffries’s “master” a mere forty years after the end of slavery. It has needed to be said since the first time Dick Allen scowled from a batter’s box or Sonny Liston glowered from across a ring or Allen Iverson took the court with cornrows. It has needed to be said since David Stern hysterically started to enforce what NBA players could and could not wear on the road. It has needed to be said since Muhammad Ali said, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be.” Using the platform to tell harsh truths is not a recipe for being a Madison Avenue “brand.” It is a recipe for actually doing something that moves society forward.
James Baldwin once said that America was a country devoted to the death of the paradox. We want our jocks to be jocks, our poets to be poets, our ditch diggers to be ditch diggers and our black athletes from Compton to not have the ability to call out the dominant culture on its own hypocritical bullshit. Richard Sherman is that paradox. But unlike the athletic paradoxes of the past, he is also acutely aware of the ways in which twenty-first-century media are attempting to put him in that box and kill his paradox. Richard Sherman has the ability to use words as weapons and spit arguments as easily as he spits insults. That makes him interesting. That makes him provocative. That makes him dangerous. And Beats by Dre aside, that makes him difficult as hell to brand.
For many people watching the Super Bowl, the game will come down to whether you root for Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback, or Richard Sherman. For many people that will mean “Peyton good” and “Sherman bad.” For many people, like John McCain, that means rooting for Peyton to shut up the “loudmouth.” If you’re going to root against the Seahawks and Richard Sherman, by all means do so. But please root against them for the right reasons, not so Richard Sherman gets some kind of lip-buttoning comeuppance. Whether you like the Broncos or Seahawks, you should hope for the greater good that Richard Sherman never shuts up.

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