Never one to shy from changing the conversation, CB Richard Sherman interrupted the lathering for another Packers-Seahawks clash of the behemoths Sunday night to introduce a bit of social consciousness. Not sure he moved the needle on Black Lives Matter movement, but he did correct the minutes and demonstrated that athletes with conviction should feel free to clear their throats.
Responding to a provocative blog post that falsely used used his name as the author, Sherman, unprompted, opened his weekly press chat Wednesday to refute parts of the post and give his take on the wrenching topic of police work in minority populations.
He strongly but calmly denied authorship of the post and directed his larger dismay at Atlanta BLM activist King Noble, who posted a photo of Sherman and Marshawn Lynch captioned with a racist threat.
“There’s some relevant things in that post that I agree with,” he said. “There were also some ignorant points in there. I don’t advocate at any time an all-out war against police. I thought that was an ignorant statement.”
Sherman was raised in Compton, CA., where he bore intimate witness to the sort of episodes that inspired national protests in numerous American cities this summer.
“As a black man, I do understand that black lives matter,” he said. “I do stand for that. I believe in that wholeheartedly. But I also think there’s a way to do things, and I think the issue at hand needs to be addressed internally (in the African-American community).
“From personal experience living in the ‘hood, you deal with people dying. My best friend gets killed, and it’s two 35-year-old black men. No police officer involved, nobody else involved. I didn’t hear anyone shout, ‘black lives matter’ then.”
Sherman lamented the polarization of reactions to the fatal shootings of black men of police.
“There’s s lot of dealings with police officers right now,” he said. “I don’t think all cops are bad. There’s some great cops out there who do everything in their power to uphold the badge and the honor to protect people. But there are bad cops. That also needs to be addressed.
“It’s a perfect time to deal with it. Everybody is being more accepting. The ignorance should stop. People should realize at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. Before we are black, white, Asian, Polynesian or Latino, we’re human. It’s up to us to stop it.”
Sherman’s appeal to everyone’s better nature is hardly provocative, but the overall topic is fraught with peril for public figures who risk irking one or all sides of their constituency. Sherman simply doesn’t care about that risk.
“I’m just a football player, who am I to say anything?” he said in response to a question about using his platform for social issues. “As long as people are watching who respect my opinion, I’m going to give it. I think it’s incredibly important to have people understand that. Let’s celebrate humanity, but (instead police are often) racially profiling people.”
Long an admirer of boxing great Muhammad Ali, whose unabashed views on race and politics made him a polarizing figure in America for two decades, Sherman, as Ali, was unconcerned about backlash.
“I think I’m past the point where alienation, and dealing with controversy and opinion, matter,” he said. “I believe in what I say. I’m not being bold or disrespectful. I’m not saying anything that is, in my opinion, controversial — if it’s something I believe in.
“Sometimes you have to try to use your platform in the best way possible. It’s not always (about) advertising and marketing for (sponsors). Sometimes it’s for speaking for what you believe in. Nobody is going to agree with everything you say. You have to stand by what you believe.
“If that turns off an advertiser or company, then . . . more power to them.”
Asked why more athletes seem to lack the public courage of their convictions, Sherman said, “I’m not scared to be judged. I’m not afraid to be criticized. Because I’m OK with who I am. I’m OK with people judging my character.
“Some people are afraid to deal with that. Whether on or off the field.
“If we did have more guys speak out, we’d be in a better place as a society.”
That might be true, although how many professional athletes are as thoughtful and confident in matters beyond sports as Sherman, is hard to say. But the fact that the Seahawks, and Seattle, have Sherman’s forthrightness and courage is an asset that should inspire gratitude.