Of the four major sports in America, football is arguably the most biracially integrated of the lot. We hear all the time about how few black athletes there are in baseball and hockey, and conversely, how few white people there are in basketball.
But in football, it doesn’t really lean either way. There are tons of black people and white people in the sport. Which is good. People don’t see skin color when they look at the athletes, and instead, judge them on their skill set.
Except, that is, when one of them behaves in a way that our racially sensitive society expects them to act based on their skin color.
And in this case, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is the victim of racial profiling. Or the instigator of it, depending on how you choose to view it.
Sunday night’s epic, thrilling game between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers has become overshadowed by the antics of Sherman, who made a game-saving play that may end up going down as one of the best of its kind by a cornerback in playoff history. But five minutes later, this happened:
Some people choose to view this as an enthusiastic, authentic reaction by an athlete who just made the biggest play of his life.
Others see it as a large black man towering over a pretty white woman, shouting angrily at the top of his lungs.
Should Sherman — who, I truly believe is the best cornerback in football — have showed a little more sportsmanship and modesty? Probably. But, remember, he wasn’t situated in a press conference surrounded by reporters. Erin Andrews sought him out of a giant scrum, seeking an honest, emotional reaction. And that’s exactly what she got.
In the immediate aftermath, meanwhile, white people Tweeted very racist things, and even other black professional athletes thought in terms of what Sherman’s actions might mean for their race, such as Andre Iguodala, a forward for the Golden State Warriors.
Finally, Deadspin put together a story, attempting to encapsulate this whole ordeal, and tried way too hard to psychoanalyze why this has become a racial issue. But, in my opinion, all the article served to do was to solidify and exacerbate this as a racial issue.
It’s easy for reporters and media publications to forget that by suggesting a racial issue, they are by virtue creating one.
Former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott once yelled into a microphone while being interviewed by a white man following an emotional playoff win, but this was never construed as a racial thing because Scott is a clean-cut, respected veteran, whereas the dread-locked Sherman was a relative unknown.
But all it really was is an impassioned, emotional athlete letting his excitement get the best of him. He acted a little bit like a buffoon, and it’s OK to laugh at him for that. We should laugh at him for that. Afterwards, if you still want to hate him, do it because you were rooting for the 49ers that day, or because you’re envious of his athletic ability, or because you don’t appreciate his arrogance — even if he did apologize. Those are perfectly legitimate reasons to dislike someone. Race should never had anything to do with it.
Shortly after Michael Vick was arrested for his role in a dogfighting ring in 2007 — evoking strong criticism from the masses — actor Jamie Foxx said, “Mike probably just didn’t read his handbook on what not to do as a black star.”
I think that’s an absurd statement, and therefore I’m definitely not going to say that Richard Sherman failed to read that same handbook. But I will say that the fact that these unwritten handbooks exist shows that our society has a long way to go.
And I will humbly volunteer myself to be the first person comfort Erin Andrews next time somebody yells at her.