Dear Richard Sherman: Don’t Apologize Another Time
I woke up Sunday morning not knowing that you exist. Sorry about that. I’m not a huge football fan. When I do catch a game, I watch the Chicago Bears. It’s hard to break from traditon.
Anyway, it’s four days later and every time I go through my Facebook news feed or look at what’s being tweeted and retweeted or even turn my desktop on, there you are. There’s been so much ado about you that I’ve done research into who you are. I figured all this negativity can’t possibly represent you. All the invective being thrown your way seems a little overblown considering what you do off the field, that you’re highly intelligent, and that you’re better educated than most of us (does a Stanford thug really exist?). I feel like I know you–like you could be related to me.
Since I feel that way, I’m going to think of you as my little cousin. Just for the duration of this letter, though. I’m not a weirdo.
So, from big cousin to little cousin, here’s my totally unsolicited advice: Don’t apologize or explain yourself even one more time.
For those who have been based in Siberia since Sunday, let’s do a quick review. You and the Seattle Seahawks played an epic game against the San Francisco 49ers. You made a game-winning play in the final moments of the biggest game of your life. As a result, the Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl.
Minutes later, sportscaster Erin Andrews grabbed you for the obligatory post-game interview. Let’s take a look at your response:
I’ve read many articles, blog posts, and tweets and I’m simply stunned by the number of people who are calling you a “classless thug” and “just a n*****.” You yourself have already spoken about how being called a thug is code for the N-word. The racial dynamics of people’s reactions has been beautifully covered by the writers Greg Howard and TaNehisi Coates.
I’m going to quote one of my oldest friends, Tyrese Alexander, a person whose opinions are always full of thought. He wrote a status update on Facebook about this brouhaha. I think it captures the underlying cause of the anger directed to you: “Black people expressing raw and pure emotion is almost always seen as a negative thing. We have been conditioned since slavery to appear happy and never express anger or sadness. If you were a slave and you appeared unhappy or upset you were beaten to ‘give you something to be upset about.’ That same mindset is still a part of America’s expectation when it comes to black folks. Speaking in an emotional, charged tone gets us labeled as ‘angry’ while it is seen as ‘passionate’ when it is one of our white peers. We were demanded to appear happy, jovial. In a country that bought and sold human beings as property, it was too much to bear seeing those human beings appear to be anything but pleased with their circumstances. Now in this day and age, the same narrative holds true. We disparage the character of a man that didn’t win with ‘class.’ His name has been run through the mud and he has chosen to apologize for simply being himself–after the game at that.”
Is this a conscious mindset? No, of course not. But, truly, it is time for people of all races to really look at why we would accept certain behaviors from one group of people, but not the same behavior from others. How much did we hear about Tom Brady last November? It is highly disingenuous to make you talking smack to a camera worse than chasing down an official, yelling in his face, and cursing on national TV.
I don’t want you to apologize because you have expressed regret about what the story has become. You know that you were inartful in your expression. I think you can be forgiven based on how your adrenaline was pumping through your veins and being in that raucous moment. After all, this is football, not ballet. America considers football players to be our modern-day gladiators. You are expected to drink blood and fight to the death if necessary.
Unless you’re being ordered to do so under the threat of dismemberment, don’t do the apology tour. You’ve said what you’ve had to say. Some people have forgiven you and moved on with their lives. Others will never forgive you. You could donate your entire salary to orphaned children for the rest of your life and they will still call you a villainous thug. That isn’t your problem. Quite frankly, it’s their problem. It’s their problem that they are unwilling to forgive. It’s their problem that they have it in their hearts to hate you over something that, in the grand scheme of life, should hardly register on the Richter scale. It’s their problem that in the struggle with their own demons (racial or otherwise), they’re dead-set on making you seem demonic.
In all my research about you, dear cousin, I found this entertaining (and prescient) Beats By Dre commercial in which you’re featured. It was released Sunday–hours before the Seahawks/49ers game–so the timing is uncanny. (The promo folks for BBD must be psychic.) I love this commercial! My favorite part? When a reporter asks you, “What do you think about your reputation as a thug?” It gets quiet. You give him the side-eye. You sigh and shake your head. You say… Never mind. Let’s let everybody take a peek themselves.
What do you think? Does Richard Sherman’s post-game interview rise to this level of mania? Does he need to apologize again? Do you wish this would all go away? Let us hear your thoughts.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.