What Concerns me about Richard Sherman’s Rant

It’s been about a week since Richard Sherman’s now infamous post-game interview. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I thought I’d share what about it concerns me the most.

Before we get to that, I’ll make a few comments about what doesn’t concern me. I’m not concerned that a professional football player said mean things about another professional football player. I’m not really that concerned that a grown man made a fool of himself on TV. I’m not really concerned that my kids will be tempted to emulate his foolishness in their own games. Basically, I’m not concerned about Sherman at all

But I am concerned with what we learn about ourselves from our reaction.

I am concerned that we are racists.

I’m concerned by how many times I heard white people (my friends and commentators) call Sherman a “thug,” a word dripping with racist undertones. I’m concerned that we called him a thug more because of how he looks than what he said. I’m concerned that we never call guys like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning thug, even though both have been caught on camera saying far worse things.

But I’m even more concerned why we stopped calling him a thug. I’m concerned it wasn’t just because we found out about his charity, or what kind of a life he lives off the field. I’m concerned it wasn’t even because we heard him talk in other interviews, and realized how bright he is, or that he got really good grades in high school and college. I’m concerned because I can’t shake the gnawing feeling that the primary reason we stopped calling him thug is because he WENT TO STANFORD. I’m concerned that we actually thought, “That crazy black man said mean things on TV, but he also went to a college where smart, white kids go. I guess he isn’t a thug after all.”

I’m concerned that the only thing that separates Sherman’s rant from Muhammed Ali’s iconic “I’m the greatest of all time!!” is that Ali is too old to be a scary black man.

I’m concerned that “thug” is less about a person’s actions, and more about our own comfort zone.

I am concerned that we are hypocrites.

I’m concerned that we’re forgetting that the NFL has grown into a billion dollar industry in large part by figuring out how to channel warrior impulses. I’m concerned that so many people who were upset by Sherman’s comments are the same people who already know that professional athletes say mean things to each other all game long. I’m concerned by the reality that we’re not upset that it happens, we’re just upset that we had to hear it happen. I’m concerned that we will happily keep paying grown men to say and do mean things to each other on the field, just as long as we don’t have to actually hear them say it. I’m concerned that our moral compass is no firmer than Nike’s, who sponsored cyclist Lance Armstrong through a decade of doping, then feigned shock and outrage while canceling his multi-million dollar contract the moment he became unprofitable.

I am concerned that we don’t really care about justice.

I’m concerned beyond words that my country reacted more viscerally to Sherman’s words than to Winston’s actions. Over a year ago Jameis Winston (Heisman, BCS Championship winner) had sex with a girl. While he was having sex with her, one of his teammates walked in, hoping he could have sex with her next; apparently that was the norm with Jameis’ girls. The next day the girl went to the police saying she was raped, but then her case was shelved for nearly a year. The intervening year shrouded justice in an impenetrable fog, making it impossible to either exonerate or convict Winston. As State Attorney Willie Meggs said in December, “I think we could have identified the suspect in the case, a lot earlier, had certain things been done.” He was also carefully avoided saying that Winston was innocent. Just that we don’t know.

While I have no idea whether Winston raped this girl (Brian Banks reminds us of the danger and cost of wrongful accusations), the whole situation looks incredibly suspicious. And here’s what we do know: Winston treats women like trash. Winston treated a human being like a sex doll, Winston gave his human sex dolls to his teammates. Best case scenario, Winston treats girls like sex dolls. Worst case scenario, Winston rapes girls.

Winston is a hero. Sherman is a thug. We’re far more offended by what Sherman said than by what Winston did.

I don’t have time to be concerned with Sherman. I’m far too preoccupied with my concerns for the rest of us.

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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8 Responses to What Concerns me about Richard Sherman’s Rant

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow…. Come on, people…is no one but me insulted for the way Tim just “played the race card”?

    I don’t care about football, never watch a game, or give a hoot about who wins or loses. I can’t say the word “thug” entered my mind when I first heard Richard Sherman’s rant. That’s because I don’t typically use that word, and when I do hear someone else use it, it NEVER conjures up for me a skin color! (I actually thought that was a word used in the movies describing white mafia members….) What I DID think is…this man is sick! Somebody please help him. What an angry, arrogant, self-absorbed guy he is!

    (I could go on a rant now about football in general…but I will spare you ☺)

    Now before you (or Tim) says, “See, you took one look at Sherman and made a racist judgment.” – let me explain, the first half dozen times I heard Sherman’s rant was in my car, listening to XM radio news. I had NO idea WHO Richard Sherman was, what team he played for, or what color his skin was! NOR did I care. NOR did any of that play into my thoughts regarding a man who would carry on in such a way.

    At what point are we, are Christ-followers, going to really shed all strongholds of racism, and allow each other to call sin, sin? To call something repulsive, repulsive? – without being painted as racists?

    Tim, I am equally sickened by what you said Winston (whoever he is) did in abusing a young woman. That’s just horrific!

    Just be careful that you don’t paint us with the racist brush because we are willing to be appalled by ALL disgusting behavior. And be careful when you write, “We’re far more offended by what Sherman said than by what Winston did.” How do you KNOW what offends me more?

    Throughout the week, as the media expounded on Sherman’s work with charity, his good grades in high school, or his graduation from Stanford, my opinion of him never changed. You “might” be right that for some, that changed their opinion. Just be careful that you don’t assign those thoughts/feelings/judgments as a blanket statement to “the rest of us.”

    Enjoy the Super Bowl, Tim. I’ll be watching Downton Abbey. 🙂

    • Tim Owens says:

      Thanks so much for commenting–a discussion is so much more fun and valuable than a soliloquy. 🙂 Much of what you said allows me to clarify some of what I wrote.. which, as a communicator, is much appreciated!

      Right off the bat, if you didn’t think “thug,” or if “thug” doesn’t have racist undertones, etc to you, then I wasn’t really talking about you. I was using “we” and “us” as a general, sweeping collective, even though I understand that not every individual in the US, or who reads my blog (not a large population! 🙂 ), would fit the description. I meant to simply have a conversation about US culture, more than each individual within US culture.

      Absolutely agree that Sherman acted like an angry, arrogant, self-absorbed guy. He made a fool out of himself. I wasn’t too concerned with him, because generally speaking guys who make fools out of themselves don’t gain too much influence. And I agree, it would be possible to call what he did ‘sin’ without being racist. I just can’t help asking the question, “Why do we mind it so much when he does it, but not when Tom Brady or Peyton Manning do it?”

      Also, great point about saying, “we’re more offended by Sherman than Winston.” You’re absolutely right, I have no idea what offends you more personally. But, I was writing more for the collective conscience and consciousness of the US. I think it’s safe to say that Sherman’s rant struck a nerve in our culture that Winston’s actions didn’t. I’m saying this based on how Sherman’s offense managed to “cross over.” Every football fan knows about Winston, but most casual fans or non-fans didn’t. But as you point out, you’re not a fan, didn’t watch the game, I’m assuming you’re not listening to ESPN radio, and yet you heard his rant a half dozen times on XM radio news. I don’t at all mean to say that you personally were more offended by one or the other, but it evident that our culture collectively has reacted more strongly to Sherman’s words than Winston’s actions.

      Hope this helps clear some of this up. And enjoy Downton Abbey–Court’s sacrificing for me next week, but we’ll be sure to catch it online later in the week (Yes, I watch Downton Abbey!) 🙂

  2. bhross says:

    Hey Tim. What has been concerning me lately is how I’ve been impacted by the negative media – on all sides. It generally makes me uptight. I feel that more than ever before, there’s always someone trying to squeeze money out of me or draw me to their side of an arguement. It has made me want to view television less and enjoy solitude more. I don’t know if it’s that I’m just getting older and time is more precious to me or if it’s the “world” screaming for answers

  3. Daniel Vance says:

    I agree, TIm. I would not consider myself a “defender” of Richard Sherman; however, I am completely flabbergasted at the hullabaloo over his rant. The man uttered not one curse word, just made the biggest play of his life, and did so in dramatic fashion over a peer/rival with whom he has personal problems that nearly escalated into a fight a few months ago. As to his being conceited and a poor sport? I don’t dispute that–I don’t think it can be disputed. Almost all pro athletes are conceited and poor sports though–some would argue that it’s intrinsic to the profession; also, it is worth noting that Sherman is, in fact, the best corner in the league, and that his former coach, who was coaching the other team that night, is a much worse sport than him. But he’s white.
    How is it possible that Ali–who called himself the greatest of all time (there’s conceit for you)–is a revered figure who carried the Olympic torch for this country, yet he called his opponents “gorilla” and “monkey” and worse, but Richard Sherman yells into a microphone 10 seconds after the biggest play of his life (again with nary a curse word or even an insult to anyone except Crabtree–and certainly nothing racial, at that) and he is a classless “thug?” Regarding Ali, time heals all wounds, I guess. Speaking of wounds: I am personally far more offended by the panty-waisted, tackle-ducking Wes Welker using a rule loophole to take a cheap shot on a nothing play and spear an opposing cornerback in the knee, knocking him out of a championship game and possibly ruining his career. But Welker is white.

  4. cboetcker says:

    I really enjoyed reading this however I have some thoughts about what you wrote. When you talk about the racism behind the comments regarding Richard Sherman and calling him a thug I wonder if it has less to do about racism and more to do with fear. I know people who have made comments unintentionally that would be perceived as racist however knowing these people I know that they do not hate all black people. Racism is defined as poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race. And what you are talking about is more along the lines of a stereotype. I am finding it difficult to explain my thoughts but I have a few personal stories that my clarify.
    I spent two years teaching math in the inner city in Jacksonville. I saw a lot of crazy things that I never thought actually happened in the classroom. I mean I heard crazy stories from people about what it would be like to work in the inner city but I really thought all that they said were just a bunch of made up stories based on stereotypes. Well the two years I was there I saw a great deal of things that makes people head spin when I talk about it. I remember the time a kid created and set off an acid bomb in the hallways and the school was shut down. Luckily he was a poor chemist and the bomb proved to be ineffective. I remember the time a gun was found on a kid in calculus class. I remember the time I was shoved and backed into a corner by a student who threatened to beat me up in front of the whole class. I remember the time a student threatened to have his brother who was in a gang (and I do mean he was literally in gang notorious for many of the shootings that took place in Jacksonville) follow me to my car one night and jump me. I remember the time I witnessed a drug exchange happen in my class. I told them they had better not do that again in my class or I would have the police come next time. I remember the time I got in between two boys fighting in my class. One was over six foot and yet I grabbed them both by their collars and marched them out of my class and said if you must fight do it outside my class. I remember all the times I was screamed at, cussed at, threatened, disrespected and more. And whenever I tell these stories the two most common responses I receive are, “Were you scared?” and “I could never have done your job.”
    But logically speaking I don’t think I could have handled that job on my own. Logically speaking I should have been scared, petrified really. And yet I remember in each of those moments though I was working with violent kids with no understanding of consequences I remember not being afraid. Was it because I am the toughest girl on the planet? (Well I often like to pretend this is the truth!) No, it was because I had Jesus in me. It sounds a little cliché but it’s true! I should have been scared. The natural human response to the situations listed would be fear. And yet I remember in those moments a power coming over me pushing me to act in a courageous way. How else can you explain a 5’4” girl barely weighing over a hundred pounds pulling two grown men fighting out of her class? (I say men because they were both over 18 however they were acting like little boys.) What comes to mind is the verse 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” A twitter post going around the internet by someone from Fox (I can’t find it) stated “Erin looked petrified”. It is used to support the idea that white people were scared because he was black and that it was a racist comment. But I think it stemmed from true fear rather than the hatred on the entire black population.
    There is a divide between white people and black and I do recognize there are still racists but I think a huge part is fear. The media loves creating fear by highlighting murders and gang violence and in some sense fear is a natural human response to these statistics. That is why I believe as Christ followers the only way we can bridge this divide is to rely on Christ to supply us with the supernatural love that casts out fear. I loved this post because it expressed such passion against our current culture and I am with you! I want change! But I think instead of focusing on the double standards that are definitely placed on black people I think we should shift our thinking about what we as believers should do! Fear is controlling the people of our nation. It is scary to reach out to people that are different, the unknown is petrifying! That’s why I think we need to start calling out our Jesus freaks  to stop living in fear but to use the power God has given us! Hating on our culture isn’t changing anything! We have got to get our hands dirty.
    It took ages before I earned the respect of students. I had to demonstrate God’s love continuously in the classroom for months before I saw change. I remember the day when that student who threatened to beat me up returned to my class. I wanted to be bitter, mean-spirited and spend the rest of the year putting him in his place. It was what he deserved after disrespecting me! But I didn’t. I treated him like the rest of the students with kindness and respect. Students learned that no matter how many times they screamed, cussed and yelled at me the next day they got to start over. Now I have to add I also screwed up a lot! For as many times I gave grace I also was nasty, mean and sarcastic. So I don’t want to paint the picture of me being this perfect teacher. That would be a lie. But God is so good that I watched Him redeem my nastiness. He called me to humble myself and go apologize to students. That was when I saw the most growth and change in students. They had been beaten down and yelled at hundreds of times so the days I lost my temper wasn’t shocking. But an apology from a teacher was shocking. I share these stories because I am so passionate about helping under privileged youth. I know it appears as though I have digressed from your original point but I think your passion against racism is very similar to my experiences in the inner city. I guess my intention was to look at your thoughts from a different perspective and challenge the idea that it is racism that fuels those nasty comments towards Sherman.
    Sorry for the insanely long post. I didn’t set out to write such a long post but this has been stirring in me ever since you wrote about Trayvon Martin.

  5. cboetcker says:

    my computer is dumb, can you delete this? bc i cant figure out how!

  6. cboetcker says:

    One final thought. I really believe we need to take a stand against the arrogance of athletes, all of them! Yes there is some truth that black people in the media have it harder. But that doesn’t change the fact that we HAVE to have to step up and put a stop to this arrogance to the best of our ability. I do not say this out of fear or racism but out of a very deep concern for the next generation. I saw on a daily basis the impact athletes, rappers, movie stars etc had on my students. They had highly unrealistic goals and aspirations. I remember I spent a month working with seniors helping them prepare resumes and set goals for after graduation. It was shocking how many students said they planned to be a professional athlete or rapper. When I asked what their back up plan was they had none. The media is teaching a ridiculous lie to this generation. Fame and fortune happen if you are the greatest. My students believed that this would just fall into their lap because they heard their heroes making statements that they are the greatest and never heard about the blood sweat and tears they poured into their work. Do you know what the most popular Nike shirt is worn on that campus? A shirt stating: lazy but talented. Nike, music, and the media in general are selling a lie and teaching arrogance. They teach men to act like boys and treat women like garbage. Read some lyrics of today’s popular rappers, it should make your blood boil. When i read these lyrics I feel physically ill. I heard boys talk in my class daily how they “banged some chick”. The majority of my female students were pregnant or already had a kid. These facts are scary. So when you stated at the end “I don’t have time to be concerned with Sherman. I’m far too preoccupied with my concerns for the rest of us.” I want to challenge that thinking. I get your point but we should all react with anger every time we experience any injustice. I hear what Sherman says and then watch how that attitude plays out in the classroom. It has to stop. And yes you are right that the NFL is bringing out animalistic responses from players however there are just as many athletes who do not give into that instinct and speak in humility.

  7. Tyler says:

    Great analysis Tim!

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