Is it ok to be black and root for Denver?
By Greg Smith
I’ve never liked Richard Sherman. I didn’t like him when he caught six passes for 105 yards as a Stanford wide receiver against my Arizona State Sun Devils his junior year. I didn’t like him when he had three catches for 54 yards against ASU his senior year. I didn’t like the fact that he kept Brandon Marshall scoreless in the 2012 game against the Chicago Bears. That Seahawks win cost my team a trip to the playoffs and resulted in the firing of Lovie Smith, my favorite NFL coach.
So when Sherman shot off to the world after the NFC Championship game through Erin Andrews microphone, I did what a lot of Americans did at that moment. I went to Facebook and posted: “Alright, I’m just gonna speak my mind. Dear Peyton: Please shut Richard Sherman the hell up!”
That was me, as a fan, reacting to a villainous sports nemesis who had foiled me once again. We all have our sports villains. Some of my other NFL villains are Aaron Rogers, Ndamukong Suh, Clay Matthews, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, “Megatron,” and anybody who beats up on the Bears with regularity. Football is entertainment. Games are like movies. As fans, we choose our good guys and villains. The good guys are the guys on your team. The bad guys are the good players on the other team.
But I reacted too quickly and with naivety. I didn’t stop to think about the facts. I’m black! Richard Sherman is black! Erin Andrews is white! Thousands of racist idiots concurrently Tweeted and “Facebooked” about Sherman, some using words like “thug” and others holding back nothing with blatantly offensive phrases. Suddenly, I found myself regretting my post. But the worst feeling came from sadness about my need to regret my post.
What started out as a nation buzzing in response in the aftermath of its favorite pastime, swiftly shifted into a racial firestorm. I was naive to think that football couldn’t be just about football.
“When you’re a public figure, there are rules,” wrote Greg Howard in his Deadspin column, The Plight of the Conquering Negro. “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.” Howard goes on to make this point: “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.”
I completely understand Howard’s opinion. My response: So what? I happen to be black, talented and some might say, arrogant. I also completely ignore those who dislike my self-confidence. Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders, Randy Moss, Serena Williams, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Floyd Mayweather, and Tiger Woods are all black, talented and arrogant. None of them fell victim to any “plight” or even acknowledged its existence. I love all those people. I just don’t like Richard Sherman.
I have a son who plays college football and has dreads sprouting under his helmet. If my son made Richard Sherman his role model, I would be happy with his choice. As a scholar, an athlete and a citizen, Sherman is an upstanding example for young people. His academic accomplishments and his rapid rise to the very top of his profession are undeniable.
But as a football fan, I don’t like Richard Sherman. I hope Peyton Manning shuts him up. The people who posted racist comments in response to his interview are like terrorists and we can’t let the terrorists win. Guess what? Racism exists. When it rears its ugly head, we don’t have to dignify it with a response. And we definitely don’t need to shine a spotlight on it brighter than the lights at the stadium. Let’s look at this like football fans and not react like gasoline exploding at the slightest spark of hate from the weak-minded.
The “conquering negro” doesn’t care what racists think. There is no plight. Responding to racists is not a cross I choose to bear because it serves us not.
Do your thing, Richard Sherman and pay no mind to the hate. If the Bears made a deal and brought you to Chicago for Alshon Jeffery, an second-year Pro Bowl wide receiver, I would buy the #25 Bears jersey and be excited about what you would do to revitalize the Chicago defense. But the reality is, until then, you are a nemesis. I hope you lose this Super Bowl Sunday.
To black Broncos fans in Denver and around the world, and to those like me who just don’t like Richard Sherman, the athlete, the entertainer, the performer, but do respect the man: You are not alone. You should feel no dissonance. You are free to root for Denver without feeling like a race traitor.
I am an NFL fan and I will not allow racists to take away my complete enjoyment of the experience of rooting for and against whom I choose. Having said that, I still wonder if my “black card” will now be revoked. What do you think?