I like Richard Sherman. Even when Sherman went off moments after the NFC Championship game, I immediately spoke out in his defense and asked what people felt he did wrong? Sure, he was loud and possibly abrasive to some (I personally didn’t care for it), but he never threatened anyone with violence and instead simply allowed the emotions of an NFC championship take over. No harm, no foul in my book – even if he might have missed an opportunity to be more sportsmanlike.
I also agreed with Sherman when he asserted that the word “thug” has quickly become a covert term for the N-word. While he was creating controversy with his comments around the word “thug,” I had trouble finding anything to refute his position as I had noticed over the years that rarely, if ever, was a white athlete called “thug.”
Today, however, I have to strongly disagree with Sherman’s position about race and fighting in sports. Specifically, Sherman calls out hockey where fighting is allowed, presumably connecting the dots that fighting is allowed (and even encouraged) in a sport that’s largely played by white athletes. At first glance (and without any deeper observation) you might make this argument, but I think upon closer inspection his comments are very short-sighted.
Many people, including me, have long awaited for hockey to make changes around fighting (in other words, eliminate fighting). But fighting has always been a part of hockey, and is still not only accepted today, it’s become a big part of the game for many fans. No, this doesn’t make it right or good, but it also doesn’t make it a racial thing, either. Similarly, fights have been banned in football and baseball, but these philosophical positions have been in place since both sports became professionalized in the United States.
Some things in sports take a long, long time to change — like how baseball finally came around this year by taking more protective measures with catchers who used to be blindsided to runners charging to home with their forearms up. Hockey, on the other hand, doesn’t seem very interested in removing fighting or they would have by now – but this hardly has anything to do with race. Hockey fans, by and large, still want fighting, so it remains. In fact, skeptics might argue that while hockey still allows for fighting, some of the “brawls” on the ice seem staged, or really nothing more than an amped up WWE wrestling match.
I still like Richard Sherman and appreciate his candor and outspokenness, but I think when you open the discussion and assert racism you need to take a wide-lens and deeper view of all the issues at hand. He had a right to speak out after the NFC championship game, and he had a valid position about the word “thug” being code to some for the N-word. He’s off-base, however, about linking race to sports that allow (and encourage) fighting. The reality is pro sports are driven by money, and in hockey they still feel that fighting sells tickets. Other sports, like football and baseball, seem to believe fighting would offer little to enhance the game, so they have prohibited it (but this doesn’t have anything to do with race and everything to do with selling tickets).