Is Richard Sherman A Thug?

Michael Crabtree slaps Richard Sherman’s facemask in the 2014 NFC Championship game. Photo courtesy USA Today

Richard Sherman exploded in a post game interview with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports shortly after Michael Crabtree smacked him in the facemask following Sherman’s ball-tip in the endzone, which ended the 49ers’ bid for the Super Bowl.  The emotion of the moment combined with Crabtree’s unsportsmanlike action certainly affected Sherman’s judgement.

His comments in the interview are noted below:

– [Sherman:] “Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you EVER talk about me!”

– [Andrews:] Who was talking about you?

– [Sherman:]“Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best. Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick. L-O-B.”

Social media erupted with derision and scorn of Sherman.  Justin Verlander, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, left this ironic tweet.

So Russell is a class act! Sherman on the other hand…. If he played baseball would get a high and tight fastball.

— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) January 20, 2014

Interesting that Verlander thinks it is ok to throw a high hard fastball at someone who he thinks is being a bit of a loudmouth.  Verlander is really just perpetuating the behavior he is decrying in Sherman.  I guess hypocrisy is ok if someone else acts out first.

If that is the case, however, why is no one vilifying Michael Crabtree?  Sherman tried to shake his hand and say “Good Game” after tipping the pass meant for Crabtree.  Crabtree responds by slapping Sherman in the face like a spoiled child.

Apparently, the bad blood between Crabtree and Sherman is not new.  According to Sherman’s brother, Branton, Crabtree and Sherman were both attending a charity function earlier this year hosted by Phoenix Cardinals receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, when another problem erupted.  As the story goes, Sherman tried to shake Crabtree’s hand, and Crabtree tried to start a fight.  If this is accurate, it certainly adds a layer of depth to Sherman’s reaction.

What really surprises me about this whole thing is who is being portrayed as the bad guy in this whole exchange.  On the one side, you have Richard Sherman saying some arrogant things and demeaning the skills of another football player.  On the other hand, you have Michael Crabtree who slapped Sherman in the face in a fit of frustration.

I really have to give the better man award to Sherman in this situation.  First, he didn’t physically retaliate against Crabtree for the literal slap in the face.  How many NFL players would have conducted themselves similarly? We usually see one player make an aggressive move of some kind, the other retaliates, then the whole team either adds to the fight or tries to break it up.  This is especially true when division rivals face off, and even more so in a game such as this where a coveted trip to the Super Bowl is on the line.  And this isn’t just in football.  How often is there a bench clearing brawl in hockey?  Even a supposedly non-contact sport like baseball has seen violent flaring of tempers.  Athletes of all kinds get charged up in the heat of the game, and often react aggressively.

Sherman did none of this, however.  For someone who makes a living by knocking people to the ground over and over, his restraint from physical retribution is pretty surprising.

I guess part of the problem is that people don’t like someone who calls out the fact they are really good at something.  Since a lot of his rant focused on how good he was, Sherman is seen as arrogant and worthy of scorn.  In his defense, he is going to the Super Bowl because he prevented one of the best quarterbacks to ever play from making a last minute touchdown for a comeback win.  He also led the NFL in interceptions this year.  Very few people have the skill set and resume to say that.

For whatever reason, people at large seem to chafe at someone who is proud of their accomplishments or abilities.  We think it is ok if we compliment someone on doing well, but it is inexplicably wrong if a person mentions it on their own.  Many jobs require confidence, however, and we wouldn’t want them to be otherwise.  Would you want a doctor operating on you who wasn’t sure he could perform?  How good would a fighter pilot be who doubted his flying skills?  Self assurance and a strong ego fuel people like Richard Sherman to be a top tier player in the NFL.

Regardless of his trash talk and self-aggrandizement, it really isn’t fair to say Richard Sherman is a thug but let Michael Crabtree have a free pass.  How many of us, if being slapped in the face in response to a handshake offered in front of millions of people, would not have physically retaliated in some way?  Crabtree had to know cameras were on him, so he knew his action would be seen.  His actions were deliberate and classless, intended to insult and demean Sherman.  That Sherman gave it back to him without physical retaliation or vulgar language should be commended, not scorned.  Like the villain, Red, advised in the movie Hancock, Richard Sherman decided to use his words rather than resort to base and violent behavior.  If you want a thug, look at Michael Crabtree.

2 Responses to Is Richard Sherman A Thug?

  1. Shane, I’m glad you explained the history on this one too. I’m with Linda on here. I had originally thought that Sherman was unprofessional and just having a tantrum. I have been a long time Seahawks fan (since I started watching with my ex husband in 2003) and was always proud to admit it, but when Sherman said what he said, I started to include the disclaimer of “Yeah, fan of Seahaws but not of Sherman’s arrogance”. A new light has been shed on the man and I now see what he did as somewhat admirable…as you said, showing “restraint”. We all have our breaking point, and I’m not 100% sure I would have been able to match his in this situation.

  2. Got to agree with you here, Shane. I didn’t watch the game, but picked up the Sherman rant later on the Web after reading comments about it. My immediate reaction was that Sherman had been extremely unprofessional. I quickly decided I’d be rooting for the Broncos in the Super Bowl. (I’m a Packers shareholder so don’t have a vested interest in this one.) But now that I’m aware of context–the history between Sherman and Crabtree–I can see why Sherman said what he did. Shows the importance of putting things in context. And it was interesting TV, to say the least.

Please let me know what you think! Even if you disagree!