Richard Sherman and "Thug" as the New "N" Word

January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editor's note: In the following correspondence, a reader responds to attacks on Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman after the National Football Conference championship game. On the last play of the game, Sherman knocked down a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. After the game, Sherman approached Crabtree, patted him on the butt, extended his hand to shake hands and said, "Hell of a game. Hell of a game." In video of the exchange, Crabtree appears to respond by swatting at Sherman's head. Later, in a TV interview immediately after the game, Sherman made comments—cited by the reader—which have became the focus of furious attacks on him.


From a reader:

For those who follow football the controversy surrounding Richard Sherman and comments he made at the end of the NFL championship game, Sunday, January 19, which decided which team, Seattle or San Francisco, would advance to the Super Bowl—icon of all football games—has brought to light another damning truth in our capitalist society: it is acceptable to use the word "thug" to really say the "n" word.

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman defending against Michael Crabtree in the Seattle-San Francisco NFL playoff game, January 19, 2014. Photo: AP

On the last play of the game, when San Francisco had a chance to defeat Seattle, Richard Sherman made a spectacular play to prevent San Francisco from making a game-winning touchdown. His job was to prevent Michael Crabtree, the San Francisco player, from catching the ball and scoring 6 points. Sherman stayed close to him and soared at the last second over and above the rising Crabtree to knock the ball into a position where Crabtree could not catch it, and another member of Sherman's team did. Game over. It was truly a beautiful thing to watch. Sherman is a very talented player and the best right now at what he does. Hey, I'm a San Francisco fan, and I have to tell you it was a hell of a play—a thing of beauty.

Moments later, the game totally over, the victory sealed, Sherman was interviewed live on Fox TV. "Take us through that game winning play" he was asked. His response was to yell at the top of his voice (never mind that over 60,000 people in attendance were yelling at the top of their voices as the game was being played in Seattle). Sherman said, "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.…" The day after the interview, Sherman told ESPN, "I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates… That was not my intent."

In the audio to the NFL films of the game, Sherman can be heard saying to Crabtree immediately after the play, "Hell of a game, hell of a game." But the pundits would not become aware of this for several days.

So, almost immediately, pundits all across the country and especially on Twitter began calling Sherman a "thug." Right now the word "thug" has become associated with Sherman. And if you haven't figured out yet that Sherman is African American—you know now. Because he hollered, made a sharp statements dissing Crabtree, and did not kowtow to Erin Andrews, the Fox network correspondent asking him questions (and no doubt his dreadlocks didn't help). Sherman has been labeled a "thug" for his comments and actions.

Sherman is a graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor degree in communications. He grew up in Compton and accepted a full scholarship from Stanford. But he has been transformed into a thug in a matter of 5 seconds. Through this controversy, it has been made clear the word "thug" has now become an accepted way to say someone is the "n" word. So now Sherman is not called a great football player; he is called a "thug." This is ugly racism rearing its head. Instead of praising his ability to play football, he is actually being called out as a "n," a thug.

In fact throughout this controversy, he has remained articulate and kept his feet grounded. Here is some of what he had to say regarding him being called out as a thug:

"The reason it bothers me is because it seems to be the accepted way to call somebody the 'n' word now.

"I know some thugs and they know I am the furthest thing from a thug. I have fought that my whole life. Just coming from where I'm coming from—you hear Compton (California), or Watts—you hear cities like that and you think the word 'thug.' He's a gangster, he's this and that and the other. Then you hear at Stanford they really like him, Oh man—that doesn't even make sense.

"You fight so hard and then you have to come back and fight it all over again."

There you have it. Once again being Black and being vocal and proclaiming yourself without compromise make you a thug, a "n."

So much of the social relations in sports work its way into the superstructure. It is more than a game when an African American can once again be openly called the n word, even if it is disguised behind the word "thug." One website that monitors the media said that one day after the game, the word "thug" was used over 360 times in reference to Sherman.

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