Let Sherman be himself, and let’s move on

RENTON — Richard Sherman became a national story with a 20-second interview moments after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship game. On Wednesday, the cornerback spent more than 20 minutes at a podium giving intelligent, honest and sometimes humorous answers.

So which instance will you use to form a judgment? If that angry rant is too much for you, or if you don’t like when Sherman talks trash on the field, maybe you can’t see past that small part of him and see the whole person. But before you judge him, at least take the time to listen to or at least read the highlights from his press conference.

In reality, both the sound-bite and the lengthy interview are part of who Sherman is, but just as the postgame interview with Fox Sports was a small fraction of what he said three days later, that fired-up persona we saw Sunday night is only a small fraction of Sherman.

“I have tons of respect for him,” said quarterback Russell Wilson, who quickly dismissed the idea that Sherman has become a distraction Seattle begins perpetration for Super Bowl XLVII.

“He’s one of the most intelligent people you’ll ever meet. He plays the game of football with tons of passion, tons of fire. We’re going to the Super Bowl. It’s one of those things where he just got excited and I know he apologized and all that for all of the distractions and all that, but he’s one of those people that he’s always focused on how he can improve and he can help our football team. He’s a great teammate. I have tons of respect for Richard.”

Sherman has apologized for taking attention away from his teammates, and as Wilson notes, his teammates have no problem with him, so can we finally put this to bed now? At least until he says something else controversial? And yes, Sherman probably will do that somewhere down the road.

“I really don’t know how to be anybody else,” Sherman said. “I can only be myself. I obviously learn from my mistakes and try to do it better, word situations like that better and be more mature about the situation and understand the moment, but you can’t be anybody else. I can’t make anything up now, it’s gotten us this far and it’d be hard to be somebody else. I can only be myself.”

In his past Sherman has tried to tone down his on-field persona, and in his opinion it “it just cuts into my game.” So Sherman will keep being Sherman, even though he knows now more than ever that there can be some ugly consequences. For yelling into a camera Sunday night just after a heated contest had ended with him making a spectacular play, Sherman was called classless, a thug, and several racial slurs we won’t print here.

“I was a little surprised by it,” he said. “We’re talking about football here, and a lot of people took it a little farther than football. I guess some people showed how far we’ve really come in this day and age. It was kind of profound what happened, people’s opinions and things of that nature. Because I was on the football field showing passion. Maybe it was misdirected, maybe things were immature, things could have been worded better, but this is on a football field. I wasn’t committing any crimes, I wasn’t doing anything illegal, I was showing passion after a football game. I didn’t have time to contemplate, ‘What am I going to say?’ But the people behind computer screens who were typing, they had all the time in the world to contemplate everything they were going to say and articulate it exactly like they wanted to, and some of it I’m sure they were pretty embarrassed about.”

So yeah, Sherman got fired up, he got a little carried away, then far too many people reacted in disgusting ways. And while the overtly racist comments got the most attention, what also bothers Sherman, who has lived an amazing Compton-to-Stanford-to-the-NFL success story, is the thug label.

“It seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays,” Sherman said. “It’s like everyone else says the N-word, and then they say thug and they’re like ‘oh that’s fine.’ That’s where it kind of takes me aback, and it’s kind of disappointing because they know. What’s the definition of a thug really? Can (it be) a guy on a football field just talking to people? Maybe I’m talking loudly and talking like I’m not supposed to, but there was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey, they just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and said, ‘aw man, I’m the thug? What’s going on here? Jeez.’ So I’m really disappointed in being called a thug.”

“Coming from where I’m from where I’m from, I fought that my whole life. Just coming from where I’m come from. Just because you hear Compton, you hear Watts, you hear cities like that you just think, ‘thug, he’s a gangster, he’s this that and the other,’ and then you hear Stanford and then they’re like, ‘that doesn’t even make sense. That’s an oxymoron.’ You fight it for so long, and to have it come back up, and people start to use it again, it’s frustrating.”

This hopefully, yet likely won’t be, the last time we have this discussion about Sherman. Yes he’ll sometimes say things you don’t like, but far more often, he’s the funny, thoughtful person we saw Wednesday. Until this point I given much opinion on this latest incident, because my opinion of Sherman hasn’t changed since the last time I wrote about one of his “controversial” interviews, the one he had last spring on ESPN’s First Take, a show that pretty much exists for the sole purpose of stirring the pot. Like I said 10 months ago, Sherman may not always come across like your perfect, well-behaved role model, but if you could tell me I can someday have a kid who would graduate from Stanford, rise to the top of his profession at a young age, then give generously to his community both in time and money, but who, yes, might occasionally be a bit brash, well, where can I sign up?

Let’s try this. Instead of remembering Sherman for a 20-second rant, think of him as the person who said this when asked what his message would be to kids in Compton who look to him as an example of what a kid from there can accomplish.

“There are no limits to what you can do,” he said. “Regardless of how bizarre my story gets, especially at times like this, it’s still remarkable how a kid from Compton, a kid from humble beginnings … the story can resonate for any kid coming from humble beginnings, or whatever beginnings you come from. Just understand that your circumstances don’t dictate your future. You’re circumstances don’t control your limits. You’re limitless, you’re a limitless person.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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