After Richard Sherman’s post-game interview heard round the world, the racist reaction was swift and immediate, and the use of the N-Word was pretty relentless. More polite conversation began with “thug”, and double-standards can be found everywhere. And then came the backlash to the blacklash. Below are 12 takes that fight the hate and challenge stereotypes.

Richard Sherman And The Plight Of The Conquering Negro, Greg Howard, Deadspin

“When you’re a public figure, there are rules. Here’s one: A public personality can be black, talented, or arrogant, but he can’t be any more than two of these traits at a time. It’s why antics and soundbites from guys like Brett Favre, Johnny Football and Bryce Harper seem almost hyper-American, capable of capturing the country’s imagination, but black superstars like Sherman, Floyd Mayweather, and Cam Newton are seen as polarizing, as selfish, as glory boys, as distasteful and perhaps offensive. It’s why we recoil at Kanye West’s rants, like when West, one of the greatest musical minds of our generation, had the audacity to publicly declare himself a genius (was this up for debate?), and partly why, over the six years of Barack Obama’s presidency, a noisy, obstreperous wing of the GOP has seemed perpetually on the cusp of calling him “uppity.” Barry Bonds at his peak was black, talented, and arrogant; he was a problem for America. Joe Louis was black, talented, and at least outwardly humble; he was “a credit to his race, the human race,” as Jimmy Cannon once wrote.

“All this is based on the common, very American belief that black males must know their place, and more tellingly, that their place is somewhere different than that of whites. It’s been etched into our cultural fabric that to act as anything but a loud, yet harmless buffoon or an immensely powerful, yet humble servant is overstepping. It’s uppity. It is, to use Knapp’s word, petrifying.”

Richard Sherman, Racial Coding, and Bombastic Brainiacs, Dave Zirin, The Nation

“Richard Sherman is consciously an archetype that has been branded a threat as long as African-Americans have played sports: the loud, deeply intelligent black guy who uses this outsized cultural platform to be as bombastic as he wants to be. Whether the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson or Richard Sherman, they tend to be painted with only one dimension, which makes it easier for them to be denigrated and demonized. Broncos fans should hope their team does not see Sherman as just some kind of loudmouth. If Peyton Manning’s record-setting receiving corps does not see everything mentally and physically that Richard Sherman is bringing to the table, he will eat their lunch. As his teammate Kam Chancellor said, ‘I used to tell him to quiet down. Then I saw the results.’”

Richard Sherman’s Best Behavior, Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

“There’s some weird notion in our society  that holds that trash-talking is for the classless and stupid. I don’t know what it means to be “classless” in an organization like the NFL. And then there is the racism from onlookers, who are incapable of perceiving in Sherman an individual, and instead see the sum of all American fears—monkey, thug, terrorist, nigger. And then there is us, ashamed at our own nakedness, at our humanity. Racism is a kind of fatalism, so seductive, that it enthralls even its victims. But we will not get out of this by being on our best behavior—sometimes it has taken our worse. There’s never been a single thing wrong with black people that the total destruction of white supremacy would not fix.” 

Richard Sherman, Thugs, and Black Humanity, Olyvia A Cole

“I think that’s what the word “thug” really means. The n-word, arguably the most dehumanizing word in history, has been decried. It is considered inappropriate to speak it in public, and while that doesn’t stop everyone, hate will find a way. “Thug” is that way. Lately, it is a word used when we want to revoke humanity. Trayvon Martin, murdered only a few blocks from his home, was called a thug during his murderer’s trial. The jury needed to be convinced that this boy’s humanity could not possibly exist if he was “a thug.” Police put a toddler’s “thuggery” on display as if to say, “This is why we police them.” And now Richard Sherman, an athlete wealthier than most of us can possibly imagine, dares to step outside the box that a racist culture demands he live inside…and he’s a thug too.”

Postgame, Joe Posnanski, Joe Blogs

“I have no idea what Richard Sherman has to do to himself to play professional football at the level he plays it. I have no idea what his state of mind must be like when he’s trying to match up to the violence of the moment. When Priest Holmes would finish games, he would almost never come out to his locker to talk. Sometimes, though, I would wait for him. An hour, An hour and a half. Sometimes two. The locker room would be empty. The equipment guys would ask me to turn out the lights when I left. Finally, he would limp out, and he would walk over to his locker, and he would slowly put on his clothes. And we would talk. ‘I don’t see how those guys do it,’ he would say of the players who had already spoken to the press. ‘If I had to talk right after the game, I’d say the craziest things you’ve ever heard.’

Richard Sherman, and Respectability Politics in Sports, Arturo Garcia, Racialicious

“When white players engage in trash-talk, it’s coded as Being A Competitor, or Being Fearless. The legend of Peyton Manning, for instance, wasn’t derailed in 2003 when he went on live television and ripped “idiot kicker” and then-Indianapolis teammate Mike Vanderjagt during the Pro Bowl. Instead, SI just named him Sportsman of the Year, over LGBT sports trailblazers Jason Collins, Britney Griner, and Robbie Rogers… New England’s Tom Brady yells at his teammates in public and NFL — excuse me, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE — pundits trip over each other to tell you he’s Showing His Passion For The Game. Sherman actually pointed out on Fox Sports that, contrary to his squeaky-clean rep, Brady is an inveterate trash-talker in his own right; he just does it when the television cameras aren’t looking. Yet no one is appalled or distressed by this revelation.”

Richard Sherman Steals the Spotlight, D.K. Wilson on The Starting Five Radio

“Richard Sherman is not mentally weak. Go check out Richard Sherman on Youtube to see what he has done with schools… check out his [Richard Sherman Family] Foundation. Check Richard Sherman out. You can go look up Richard Sherman’s background before you speak out of turn… It is not the athlete’s responsibility to explain [themselves] to you… We are talking about an exemplary human being as a football player.”

The Word “Thug” Was Uttered 625 Times On TV On Monday. That’s A Lot., Kyle Wagner, Regressing

“The word “thug” has been used so many times by the same sort of people about the same sort of thing that it’s no longer even accurate to call it code—it’s really more of a shorthand. It means a black guy who makes white folks a little more uncomfortable than they prefer. On Sunday night, Richard Sherman made a lot of people uncomfortable. Then on Monday, people said thug on TV more often than on any other day in the past three years.”

Richard Sherman’s Rant Again Blew the Hinge Off the Door of Racial Stereotypes, Earl Ofari Huthinson, Huffington Post

“As with [Trayvon] Martin, and the others, the racial trashing of Sherman is silly stuff. The pantheon of stereotypes and negative typecasting they’re anchored on are not. The hope was that President Obama’s election buried once and for all negative racial typecasting and the perennial threat racial stereotypes posed to the safety and well-being of black males. It did no such thing. Immediately after Obama’s election teams of researchers from several major universities found that many of the old stereotypes about poverty and crime and blacks remained just as frozen in time.”

Richard Sherman Gave The People What They Wanted And Now They’re Upset, Nate Scott, For the Win

“Some of these reporters were the very same ones who have complained publicly, in print, that athletes never do anything but speak in clichés.  They long for the good old days, when athletes had real personalities and weren’t all trained by media specialists. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t complain that athletes are too well media-trained and the days of “big personalities” are gone and then freak out when an athlete goes off script.”

Why Richard Sherman Shouldn’t Have To Apologize For His Post-Game Interview, Travis Waldron, ThinkProgress

“We’ve been led to believe that Sherman said something awful, but watch the clip again. He criticizes a wide receiver on a rival team that he’s been battling for 60 minutes and he claims to have a personal history with. He claims he’s the best defensive back in the game. Neither of those seem to be outlandish enough to warrant the outrage they generated, at least not from anyone whose name isn’t Michael Crabtree. And neither of those statements seem to necessitate an apology, at least not to anyone who isn’t Michael Crabtree. So what’s Sherman apologizing for? For becoming a distraction. And that’s even more amazing, because the idea that he was a distraction — that catch-all term we use to criticize athletes when they step outside the realm of what the sports world deems acceptable — is nonsense that ignores that this turned into a major story for no particularly legitimate reason.”

Richard Sherman: Can Alternative World Views Prevail, Thabiti Lewis, New Black Man

“Where I am from we question and become suspect of those raising a big fuss about Sherman’s behavior as odd, strange, or unacceptable according to proper “standards”.  We ask what these people are they trying to control and protect? Let me shift into academic gear for a second as I make one thing clear: there is a symbiotic relationship between hegemony and ideology.  This is at the core of the Sherman debates. Therefore the prevailing questions remain: (1) Who constructs the parameters in which young black men expressing themselves in sport culture is often conceptualized as negative?  (2) Why is this often the case?  (3) Who controls the narratives that define cultural productions such as Sherman’s post-game comments?  (4) Who decided what THE right or ONLY valid worldview is?”

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