I enjoyed the game with the kids last night between the San Francisco 49ers that sent the Seattle Seahawks. That amazing game however was marred by a bizarre rave from cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman immediately followed the win with a screaming and unhinged rant. The question is whether the Seahawks should be able to discipline Sherman for such a disgraceful performance — just after an equally disgraceful taunting of the 49ers. I would be the first to defend the free speech rights of Sherman to act like a street thug and even diss opposing players like San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. However, the Seahawks drew well-deserved praise on this blog for moving against thugs in the stadium in the prior game with the 49ers. How about the thugs on the field? This is not an attack on free speech by the government. The question is whether a company can discipline an employee at work for behaving like a thug. UPDATE: Sherman has been fined by the NFL for his taunting shortly before his outburst on television.
Sherman followed the interception against the 49ers by engaging in raw unsportsmanlike conduct, including a choke taunt to rub salt in the wound of the opposing team. He then was called over by a friendly Erin Andrews who cheerfully asked him for his reaction. Andrews was virtually speechless as Sherman started screaming: “Well, 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!” I realize that Sherman and Crabtree were trash talking in the game, but this is still a game watched by millions of families. It is bad enough, as we have previously discussed, that families have to content with drunken, foul-mouthed fans in stadiums. Now, the players are demonstrating the worst type of conduct and values on television. I am a big supporter of unsportsmanshiplike conduct penalties. However, this was after the game. Should the Seahawks be allowed to fine players for this type of rude and uncivil conduct while wearing a Seahawks uniform on the field?
Crabtree strikes me as showing the same idiocy in this game and should be reprimanded for his own lack of sportsmanship. I understand Sherman’s excuse that he was pumped up and mad but I am tired to just shrugging off the notion that sports celebrities should not be required to be role models. Movie celebrities are often immature toddlers. However, they do not represent a team and represents a city. We have a race to the bottom in both stadiums and on the field as we dismiss this type of conduct as irrelevant or expected. It is part of a society that seems to be losing basic notions of control and civility. I think that people paid millions should be expected to show a modicum of maturity and self-control. If this were a Chicago Bear, I would feel the same way. Indeed, I would be even more disgusted. Between the thugs in the stands and the thugs on the field, we are losing this game to the lowest common denominator.
What is interesting is that a fan can be fired and banned for life for acting like an ass at a stadium, but a player (particularly a good one) seem immune from such responsibility (or the most minimal requirements of society) in appearing on television at a football game.
Later, Sherman only slightly toned down his message, which he must have thought brought him within the limits of civilized society. In an interview, he trashed Crabtree again and said “I was making sure everybody knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. Mediocre. And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens.” Thanks for that clarification.
By the way, Sherman is a Stanford graduate with a degree in communications.
UPDATE: There is a rather bizarre notion raised that suggesting that Sherman could be disciplined for this conduct is an attack on free speech. Free speech allows you to speak without government censorship or punishment. It does not mean that adults can say anything without any personal repercussions, particularly while at work. This blog is committed to free speech. Indeed, we have often been accused of being too extreme in our defense of free speech. However, this is not a question of free speech. It is a question of civility and professionalism. If an employee screams profanities at customers or co-workers, it is not a free speech issue. It is a question of the code for employees. If an employee shows contempt for customers or co-workers, it is not a free speech issue. Free speech means that no one can force you not to be an idiot. However, in society, being an idiot comes at a cost with people who do not want to appear idiots. The fact that this would not seem “so bad,” only shows how far our society has diverged from basic expectations of conduct from adults. This is precisely why professional sports is being a beacon for those who want to get drunk and act like juveniles. Call it prissy or prudish if you want. However, I do worry about how this type of conduct is being treated as just harmless trash talk. It is not the content but the conduct that it being raised by some of us. If we cannot agree that this type of conduct is improper for a professional athlete in a game, we have surrendered far too much in our expectations for a civil society.