Loud and Proud?

Yesterday I wrote how Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman infuriated and polarized with his globally televised postgame rant. 

Today I learned that his teammate, Marshawn Lynch, was fined by the NFL for NOT talking. (I'm a little behind the curve; this happened a couple of weeks ago.)

So, which way do we want it? Do we like our heroes fiery and demonstrative (to the point of obnoxious) or do we like them silent and introspective (to the point of appearing petulant)?

By the way, a friend pointed out that the Seattle paper asked readers what they thought of Sherman's passionate rant and 33% said they were fine with it, 37% were disappointed but forgive him and about 30% found it classless and offensive. 


Will The Real Richard Sherman Please Stand Up?

Sherman: “I’m the best corner in the game. 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.”
Andrews: “Who was talking about you?”
Sherman: “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”

Confident. Arrogant. Thug. Plays with heart. An exceptional person.

All of the above describe Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who last night became a household name with his postgame tirade on FOX after his team beat the San Francisco 49ers to claim the NFC championship. Longtime fans and observers of #25 were less surprised than the rest of the 98 percent of the world who for the first time got a taste of his swagger.

Social media exploded and it didn’t take long to see how people felt about Sherman’s bravado.

I posted my outrage on Twitter and Facebook. Just to show you the difference, tweeters I don’t know personally responded with things like “haters gonna hate” and “lolol we goin to the super bowl shut up” while Facebook friends supported me with “likes” and supportive comments. Over dinner, however, I started to second guess myself. Glass houses and all that. After all, I’m a communicator and should understand better than anyone that my objections were now laid bare and will remain public forever.

I decided to not to delete my posts. No, I’m sticking with my opinion that Sherman’s rant was classless and when the Seahawks don’t muzzle him he brings dishonor to himself and his team. As a communications consultant, I would jump through the TV screen if I saw a client behaving that badly.

Sure, as Sherman later wrote in his blog, it was in the heat of the moment. Peter King today reminded us  that the NFL has a cooling off period before reporters can enter locker rooms for just this reason. Sure, Niners receiver Michael Crabtree had supposedly tried to fight Sherman at a charity event last offseason. Of course there’s bad blood between these teams, and these two. And Sherman’s remarkable, odds-defying transition from the mean streets of L.A. (Compton) to Stanford as a student-athlete and to the NFL has been well documented. But does that give a guy license to spew?

I believe in free speech and Sherman made his point. After all, the NFL is a universe unto itself, where bigger/faster/flashier wins the day. But give me the quiet, understated superheroes – Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Joe Montana. Sherman is a motormouth who needs one of those t-shirts that says “I’m talking and I can’t shut up.”

Maybe the NFL needs a few Richard Shermans for sheer entertainment value – someone to stoke the competitive flames, guys who are provocative. Sherman has said he’s not afraid to call people out and to address the elephant in the room. But what’s puzzling is that – in the light of day – the guy has range. Just read his blog and you’ll see a guy who’s swung from the aggressive posturing to a calmer, more thoughtful tone. He’s not contrite by any stretch, but he does credit his teammates and say he doesn’t want to be the villain:

“… people find it easy to take shots on Twitter, and to use racial slurs and bullying language far worse than what you’ll see from me. It’s sad and somewhat unbelievable to me that the world is still this way, but it is. I can handle it.”

Did he write that himself? Who knows? Was he coached? Most likely.

There are too many things we don’t know about Richard Sherman. Yes, his life off the field including charity work has been documented and he tweets hourly. His teammates speak of him with an almost reverential awe; they wouldn’t self-promote in such a brash manner but they admire him for doing it.

I guess as polarizing as he is, Sherman is a brand unto himself with a reputation. There’s no doubt about it. But Lord help him if he should ever want to change his image, because last night’s rant is all we will remember.