At the risk of intruding upon our weekend bloggers, I wanted to post an update to our prior posting on the Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman has now been fined by the NFL, not for his infamous post-game interview, but his unsportsmanlike conduct on the field after the final play against the San Francisco 49ers. He will pay almost $8000 for his taunting of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree. As someone who has long objected to increasing example of poor sportsmanship (as well as excessive celebration) incidents in football, I believe the fine is well deserved, though (as I previously stated) I felt Crabtree also acted in a rude manner in refusing to shake Sherman’s hand and shoving Sherman’s face mask. I would have liked to see him fined as well.
I thought the earlier discussion over Sherman was interesting in the sharp difference in how his interview was perceived on this blog. I continue to view Sherman’s conduct in that interview to be disgraceful and unprofessional. I do not believe that it is racist to describe a player screaming at an interviewer and into a camera in this way as “thuggish.” I was surprised by many who not only stated that they felt that the conduct was acceptable but by those who said that they liked this type of trash talking. Sitting with my kids and watching the game, I did not view the interview as “thrilling” but obnoxious. In my view, this is a controversy that turns not on the different way people view race but the different way people view conduct. For some, those issues are inextricably linked and race is distorting the view of the conduct. I found many of those views to be insightful. There are clearly racists who came out in this debate, but I do not believe that the majority of people objecting to Sherman’s rant were acting out of some latent racist motivation. I also do not believe that to call out a black athlete for such conduct must only be due to latent racism. I truly believe that a white player would have been similarly criticized by many of those objecting to this incident. Sherman went directly from an unprofessional taunt on the field to an unprofessional rant on television. His conduct warranted condemnation and, as discussed earlier, this is not a free speech issue.
We have criticized people of all races on this blog for uncivil and “thuggish” conduct. It does not matter that Sherman has a degree from Stanford or that he has an impressive life story. He is an adult and his conduct on the field and in the interview was disgraceful for a professional athlete in my opinion. He certainly has company in this ignoble group, but that does not excuse his conduct.
As I mentioned earlier, I thought it was great that the Seahawks have cracked down on thugs in the stadium who taunt and harass visitors from other teams. If this effort is going to successful, the players need to be held to a minimal standard of conduct on the field. Otherwise, we will allow this game (like other games) to decline to the lowest common denominator of conduct.
Obviously, for those who said that they like to see this type of trash talking or that they believe it is too late to conform the conduct of professional athletes, this is a rather moot point. However, I do not. I have long criticized the decline of civility and basic norms of conduct in our society. That may certainly make me prissy or old-fashioned in the view of many. I must admit that I find myself in a diminishing minority. For those of us who hold to such views, Sherman’s taunting on the field and screaming in the interview was all too familiar and outside of the bounds of professional conduct.
I believe that Sherman should have been reprimanded by the team for the interview as unprofessional and unbecoming for a member of the Seahawks (while the interview occurred on the field and he was in his uniform, it is not subject to the NFL rule or fines). Clearly, many disagree and I am glad that we can discuss those different views on this blog without personal animus or assuming the worst motivations of people. There are good faith views on both sides of this controversy. Issues that touch on race produce strong passions as well as strong rhetoric in such debates. We should not shy away from discussing such issues on this blog but we should show that such discussions can occur without labeling people on the other side as necessarily racists or apologists.
The fine was well deserved for the taunting. A fine against Crabtree would be equally well deserved. I fail to understand why his shoving of the face mask was not denounced and penalized.