richard sherman*It doesn’t take much for America to backslide into a mean-spirited racial discourse, where it can take something as simple as the passion of a heatedly contested battle at the end of a conference championship football game, and turn it into something sinister and evil.

Sounds like something a fool would do-and our nation is not short on fools (more on this in a minute). When did America get so damned sensitive about what combatants say about each other in the heat of battle? When has adrenaline had to be shut down at the final buzzer, or manners mattered in a postgame interview? When did braggadocio become outlawed, or passion become passe’? Since when did you have to apologize for being the best in your sport (and saying so)?

All of America is taking about Seattle Seahawk, Richard Sherman’s post-game interview(s) like he was A-Rod or something. He wasn’t accused of cheating his sport. He’s accused of lambasting his sport in a moment of un-sportsman-like behavior. There were even accusations that Sherman was being racist for his comments. What made them racist? His opponent was the same race as he. Was it the white woman holding the microphone in the post-game interview? She did approach him in the aftermath of the Seahawks victory over the 49ers.

Give me a break.

None of this is worth any of the attention it’s getting-beyond Sherman making a great play on an adversary where he obviously had been engaged in a personal beef with 49er receiver, Michael Crabtree. The 49ers tried Sherman on the last play. Sherman made a game-saving play. He said they shouldn’t have tried me. Don’t do it again. End of story.

But somehow, it not the end of the story—not because Sherman wants to talk about it, but because others won’t let the story die. They will be talking about it for the next two weeks… until the NFL’s “Superhero,” Payton Manning gets a chance to shut him up…they hope.

Well, thank God we have something else to talk about for the next two weeks, other than how great Manning is. That might be the genius of Sherman’s comments. You see, Richard Sherman is nobody’s racist. But he’s nobody’s fool either. Let’s lay the proper context here.

Richard Sherman is a 24 year old, two all-pro cornerback, from Compton, California. For all the millions of “wanna-bees” who claim they’re straight outta Compton, this young man is straight outta Compton. In a fairy tale story that nobody heard about, until he made a name for himself in the NFL, this young man beat the odds several times. He graduated from Compton Dominguez High School at a time when most black males in urban cities were dropping out. He received a full ride football scholarship to Stanford, no less—and graduated with a degree in communications and is working his Master of Arts degree from Stanford. He has set the NFL on fire in his first two seasons and even has been compared to one, who some think is the greatest cornerback of all-time, Dion Sanders. The young man’s future is bright.

Now, many have said that his rant was foolish, given his rising brand—as you have seen him in no less than three national commercials. But this young man understands media, and how to separate himself from his contemporaries. It’s called marketing. Muhammad Ali showed how that worked as Cassius Clay fifty years ago when, in the aftermath of his shocking upset of World Champion, Sonny Liston, he said, “I’m the Greatest. I can’t be beat. I’m pretty. I’m a baaaad man.” He revived the sport with his braggadocio. How many times has Floyd “Money” Mayweather gone off on boxing commentator, Larry Merchant. I never heard anybody call Floyd racist. And who outmarkets Money Mayweather? Extreme and outrageous comments are part of sports marketing and athletes marketing themselves.

So what makes him a fool? What makes what he said so unforgivable?

A fool is someone who knows nothing, or a little something, and tries to make the unintelligent sound intelligent, despite the absence of facts or logical standing. A fool has their followers, who ingest nonsense because they’re impressed with the fool. Fools have their fans too. I’m not big on fools, or fool-followers.

Fools generally have little accomplishments to show for their foolishness—and generally their followers are the like. There is nothing Richard Sherman has done to indicate he’s a fool.

The world is talking about what he did and what he said. They’re not talking about Peyton Manning (just yet). He is the “buzz” of the upcoming Super Bowl. How is he losing?

I don’t call that foolish. I call that genius.

What makes it so unforgivable was the boldness of it. The “in your face” comments at an emotional flashpoint in time when the cameras caught it. Just like Jack Johnson, or Muhammad Ali, or Curt Flood, and now Richard Sherman. It’s not so much that they did it—but they said it while they did it. Ali once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.”

Richard Sherman only said what he did, and did what he said in a “menacing” way—and that, is what unforgivable blackness means in America. They don’t forgive that type of behavior.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.

anthony asadulla samad

Anthony Asadulla Samad