The Seattle Seahawks' outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman ignited a firestorm of controversy when he gave what appeared to be a thuggish rant of the ages when he suggested San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree was "mediocre" immediately after the NFC Championship game nearly two weeks ago.
Sherman's rambunctious snippets went viral. His actions and have ignited a debate about whether Sherman is just some "thug" from Compton, California who doesn't respect the sport of football or if he's simply misunderstood.
Sherman suggests being labeled a thug is another way for a segment of the white media to call African-Americans like himself the N-Word. He feels a segment of the media contingent has unfairly labeled him something he's not.
Is Richard Sherman really a thug?
By definition a thug is a person who engages in violent and/or criminal behavior.
Did Sherman kill someone?
Did Sherman rob, deceive or steal from someone?
Has Sherman served anytime in prison for acts contrary to the law?
I characterize his behavior as a display of passion. Sherman was exhibiting behavior in sports that few African-Americans having the platform are willing to use. He was simply talking trash about an opponent whose game he does not respect.
In sports trash talking has existed for over a century. Boxing pioneer Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, trash-talked his white opponents as he beat them into submission. Johnson did this during a time where African-Americans were decades removed from slavery. African-Americans were being lynched in the early 1900's when Johnson ascended -- hence once can plausibly assert Johnson introduced trash-talking on the national scale.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, later to be Muhammad Ali, took the artform of trash talking to level where his antics would garner attention to the plight of the African-American citizen and athlete. Ali ultimately fueled change in society and sports.
Michael Jordan took what Johnson started and Ali mastered to level where talking trash was acceptable to the masses. Air Jordan was carefully crafted by a public relations team to talk trash yet simultaneously make mega-dollars in the process. The latter was largely predicated on winning and Jordan certainly did that.
So who are the real thugs?
If one examines the historical development of this country one would see Sherman is far from being a thug.
Sherman is a Stanford man. He studied communications while at Stanford. Clearly there is a level of intellect there that deserves to be acknowledged but not dwelled upon to any substantial degree: As we take a brief journey through history you'll see that some of the real thugs in this country have attended prestigious institutions like Sherman.
What Native Americans and imported African slaves were subjected to by oppressors can be characterized as thuggish behavior. The systematic destruction of life based on greed and ignorance certainly falls under the definition.
Those individuals who were responsible for erecting an economic, political and judicial system that historically has discriminated against people of color, particularly African-Americans, can be characterized as thugs as well.
Those individuals who were responsible allowing African-Americans to fight in wars started by people who oppressed them while simultaneously keeping them out of Major League Baseball because of race until 1947 are thugs.
Those individuals and groups who have treated women second-class and didn't allow them to vote until 1920 were thugs.
When the ilk of a Lance Armstrong raises millions of dollars through his foundation, lies about talking performance enhancing drugs and uses his celebrity to destroy innocent people can rightfully be considered more of a thug Sherman.
Those responsible for the floor of the economy dropping several years ago; who took tax-payer money and lined the pockets of corporate America are thugs.
A largely white sports medium that disseminates, edits and publishes material that's built upon stereotypes that can negatively harm an athlete's career are thugs.
All one has to do is study the historical development of this country and place things in their proper perspective. If we all collectively looked beyond what we see sometimes we can allow ourselves to enhance our perception and grace the truth.
In closing, Sherman is no more a thug than most of you who are reading this piece. Talking trash about a competitor is one thing, but engaging in violent criminal activity that deprives an individual or group is entirely another.
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