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The 18 Second Rant That Launched a National Conversation About Race and Sports

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A few weeks ago, Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman set off a firestorm with this post-game boast: “Don’t you ever talk about me!” Before Sherman got to his locker room, the Internet exploded with criticisms of his unsportsmanlike manner and defenses of his refreshing honesty. Ideastream’s Ida Lieszkovszky reports all eyes are on Richard Sherman as he prepares for this weekend’s Super Bowl.

Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:50 pm

“I’m the best corner in the game, when you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me!”
That was the beginning of the 18 second rant that started it all. One of the most prominent and immediate responses came in the form of a four-letter word: “thug.”

Just a few days after that game, Sherman went on CNN to defend his comments, and refute those calling him a thug.

“I think it used to be the n word," he said. "Now they’re using thug instead of the n word, as a more accepted way of saying it.”

That’s a sentiment journalist and commentator Jimi Izrael identified with.

“It’s clearly a substitute for n****. It’s certainly become that in the last, I don’t know, 15 years," said Izrael. "Every black man that I know, and I know politicians, I know millionaires, I know captains of industry. The ones that are black, at one point in time they’ve all been accused of being a thug. If you’re not particularly deferential to white comfort that makes you a thug.”

But the notion that “thug” is a racial dig is lost on some.

“I never really thought it was a racially charged word, actually," Plain Dealer sports reporter Bill Livingston said on this morning’s The Sound of Ideas.

Livingston said Sherman’s tirade was just representative of how sports culture has evolved, that Sherman's comments were unsportsmanlike, and that athletics have gotten more violent and disrespectful over the years.

“I understand that black people have experiences different from me," he said. "I also understand that there’s a norm of sportsmanship that most of us were inculcated with at some time in our experience, no matter how far we went in sports, and it’s in the trash can now. They’ve dumpstered it.”

Former athlete and sports journalist David Lee Morgan said black athletes are treated differently from Caucasian athletes, and are held to different standards.

“If you don’t speak well as a black man, as a black athlete, you’re considered unintelligent.”

Morgan said playing a sport is always an adrenaline filled experience. Players need some time to cool off before the media sticks a mic in their face, and when they do speak honestly, there’s no need to say ‘sorry’ after the fact.

“It was the heat of the battle. He said what he felt," according to Morgan. "One of the quotes Sherman said later was that a lot of what he said came out of the adrenaline he had, but he said I just don’t like Crabtree. He’s established that. I don’t think he had to apologize for anything he said because it was the heat of the moment. There’s no apology necessary.”

John, a caller from Broadview Heights agreed, and said Sherman’s comments were blown out of proportion.

“This started way before the game, it started all during the game and that was just the reaction in the heat of the moment after the battle of those two players.”

While others, like Sean from Westpark wondered if Sherman’s comments weren’t more calculated than they initially sounded.

]“He’s maximized potential as far as dollars earnings ever since this whole episode, he’s been getting tons of endorsements, money coming in. at the same time he’s using the spotlight to, in his mind, I think, calculatedly bring up a big issue as far as race relations and I think he should be commended for that.”

Sherman is already selling t-shirts and memorabilia on his website emblazoned with the line: “don’t you ever talk about me!”

Whether or not Sherman’s comments were intentional, he seems to have toned down his rhetoric style in recent days - way down. According to some reports, his recent press conferences have been so calm they became boring, with half the press corp walking out before it was even over. But fans are expecting nothing but excitement this Sunday as the Seahawks meet the Denver Broncos for Superbowl 48.

Ida Lieszkovszky, 90.3