For the first time since his postgame rant stirred up a storm, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman spoke in a press conference Wednesday and said his comments ”misdirected and immature” but that being called a thug is the “accepted way of calling someone the N-word nowadays.”
“We’re talking about football here, and a lot of people took it further than football,” Sherman said. (Watch at Seahawks.com.) “I was on a football field showing passion. Maybe it was misdirected and immature, but this is a football field. I wasn’t committing any crimes and doing anything illegal. I was showing passion after a football game.
“It is what it is. Things like that happen and you deal with the adversity. I come from a place where it’s all adversity, so what’s a little more or people telling you what you can’t do. I really was surprised. If I had known it was going to blow up like that I would have approached it differently, just in terms of the way it took away from my teammates. That’s the thing I feel regretful about.”
Sherman tipped a pass intended for Michael Crabtree with just seconds left in the NFC championship game. It would up in the arms of Malcolm Smith for an interception that put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Sherman, mic-ed up for the game, ran up to Crabtree and said “hell of a game, hell of a game” as he held out his right hand. Crabtree swatted at his helmet and, moments later, Sherman talked trash about Crabtree to Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews. “I’m the best corner in the game,” he yelled over the crowd noise. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me.” Asked whom he was talking about, he said, “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”
That created a storm in which Sherman was called names, defended himself in a MMQB.com column and drew support from Hank Aaron. On Wednesday, he called “thug” a code word.
“The only reason it bothers me is it seems like it’s an accepted way of calling someone the N-word nowadays. It’s like everybody else said the N-word and they said thug and they’re like, ‘That’s fine,’ ” Sherman said. “That’s where it kind of takes me aback. It’s kind of disappointing because they know. What is the definition of a thug, really?”
Sherman went on to speak of his upbringing. The son of a social worker and garbage-truck driver in Los Angeles’ Compton neighborhood, he was a communications major at Stanford. That was clear Wednesday afternoon and he wore a Biblical verse (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) on a medallion.
“I know some real thugs, and they know I’m the farthest thing from a thug,” Sherman said. “I fought that my whole life, just coming from where I come from. Just because you hear Compton or you hear Watts, you hear things like that, you just think ‘thug,’ ‘he’s a gangster.’ He’s this, that and the other. And you hear ‘Stanford,’ and they’re like, Aw, man, that doesn’t even make sense. That’s an oxymoron. He’s a gangster. You fight it for so long, and to have it come back up and have people use it again is frustrating.”
Not everyone was critical of him, though.
“There were countless individuals, and Hank Aaron was one of them,” Sherman said. “A lot of people reached out with support and I appreciate all of it, people who really know who you are and what you stand for. They are not as quick to judge.”
He reiterated his regret that his outburst took the focus away from his teammates and may have tarnished their image. They’re not villains and neither is he, he said.
“I don’t think I’m a villain. I think people always say the old cliché ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but they are judging a book by its cover. They’re judging me off [what they saw on] the football field … they’re not judging me off of who I am. Now if I had gotten arrested 10 times or committed all these crimes or gotten suspended for fighting off the field and done all that, then I could accept being a villain. But I’ve done nothing villainous.”
Sherman can probably expect to be asked about all of this again during Super Bowl media day, but don’t expect him to change. Football is a game best played when emotions and adrenaline are running high.
“I really don’t know how to be anybody else,” he said. “I can only be myself. I’ll obviously learn from my mistakes, and try to do word situations like that better and be more mature about situation and understand the moment, but you can’t be somebody else. I can only be myself.”
As he told Rachel Nichols in an “Unguarded” interview that will appear on CNN Friday night, “I’m not going to fight anybody and embarrass myself and embarrass my family and embarrass my organization like that. There’s no need for that. There’s no need to be that kind of barbaric human being. But on the field, we’re playing a very barbaric sport. You can do as you please. That’s when I take all my animosity and all my anger and all my frustrations out. On the field.”
On to the Super Bowl, where he might just get more attention than even Peyton Manning, much to Beats’ satisfaction.