Seattle Seahawks' star cornerback Richard Sherman says he supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but believes that the issue of "black-on-black" crime needs to be resolved first.
Sherman made the impromptu remarks before reporters Wednesday in response to a controversial website comment about the Black Lives Matter movement that many had incorrectly attributed to him. And while Sherman denied that he wrote the post Wednesday, he did take several minutes to offer a heartfelt statement on his thoughts regarding Black Lives Matter and police-community relations in the inner-city.
"As a black man I do understand that black lives matter," Sherman said. "I stand for that, I believe in that wholeheartedly. I also think there's a way to go about things and there's a way to do things."
Sherman, a Stanford graduate who was born and raised in Compton, California, suggested that the black community needs to address "internal" issues like "black-on-black crime" before police are blamed. He shared a personal story from his past about a "best friend" who, Sherman says, was killed by two 35-year-old black men.
"Wasn't no police officer involved," Sherman said, "wasn't anybody else involved -- and I didn't hear anybody shouting 'black lives matter' then."
"If black lives matter, then they should matter all the time," Sherman said.
The concept of black-on-black crime is a controversial one. And while it has existed in American culture for decades, Jamelle Bouie detailed in The Daily Beast that there is a huge problem with the phenomena: It does not actually exist. The issue of black-on-black crime is no more real than the one of "white-on-white crime." Bouie writes:
Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime—86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you’ll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other.
Bouie isn't alone in his analysis. HuffPost reporter Julia Craven blasted the notion of "black-on-black" crime as racist in 2014:
The "Black-on-Black crime" moniker is racist rhetoric functioning under the guise of concern for the state of Black America. People of all races -- Blacks included -- seemingly love to discuss how not killing our own and being more respectable will alleviate the effects of racism.
"Black-on-Black crime" highlights the fear surrounding Black masculinity, the lack of Black femininity, and perceived inherent Black criminality. And, when Black people are shamed for committing the same crimes at almost the same rates as whites, it illustrates how much the white supremacist gaze has been internalized.
Craven cited research conducted by David Wilson in his book Inventing Black-On-Black Violence, which explains how the early 1980s, media picked up on a new wave of violence within black communities -- "fueled by job loss, debased identity and rampant physical decay"-- and invented the misconception.
But Sherman is not one to shy away from controversy or speaking his mind. He grabbed headlines in 2014 when he condemned those who called him a "thug" for his demeanor as he celebrated the Seahawks's NFC Championship victory that season.
And on Wednesday, Sherman didn't stop at Black Lives Matter or interracial crime. He also addressed issues of police brutality.
"I don't think all cops are bad," Sherman said. "I think there are some great cops out there who do everything in their power to uphold the badge and uphold the honor and protect the people out in society. But there are bad cops. I think that also needs to be addressed."
He also suggested that while it's important that issues of police misconduct are being captured on cell phone video more frequently, it should't be assumed that it's a new problem.
"These are things that a lot of us have dealt with our whole lives," Sherman said.
Sherman ended his remarks with a call for brotherhood among all people of all races.
"I think the ignorance should stop," Sherman said. "People should realize that at the end of the day we're all human beings. So before we're black, white, Asian, Polynesian, Latino -- we're humans."