Richard Sherman’s Big Mouth

Today’s guest post is by WALEKPeppercommer Stefan Prelog.

richard shermanMinutes after the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco ‘49ers and Seattle Seahawks ended, a collective “so what” could be heard around the country.

Sure, Peyton Manning and Denver’s high-powered offense going up against Seattle and their bruising defense would make for a great matchup.  But for the casual observer, Super Bowl XLVIII didn’t have much pizazz besides wondering how much snow there would be in the Meadowlands.

Enter Richard Sherman, the Seahawks cornerback who got his fingertips on a ball meant for ‘49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and forced an interception that secured the Seahawks victory.  After the game, Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews asked Sherman about the play and in seconds he turned casual fans around the country into talking heads on the state of sports and society.

“Great — thanks Richard Sherman! Now I feel in need to root for Peyton and @Broncos. Thanks a lot,” was one response on Twitter .

The Twitter-sphere lit up with comments about Sherman’s outburst against Michael Crabtree.  Everyone wanted to weigh in and talk about Sherman’s trash-talking post-game interview.   It didn’t matter what Crabtree had said or what the history was, the Super Bowl had a new loudmouth to love or hate.

In an instant Sherman became this year’s Randy Moss, Chad Ochowhateveryournameisnow or Michael Irvin—and that’s not a bad thing.

Would it have been as interesting to hear Sherman say, “I was fortunate to make that play. We worked hard all game and I was thankful I had a chance to secure the win for me and my teammates.  It was a true team effort?” We hear stock quotes like that all the time.

In a culture where public relations professionals and spokespeople work to ensure that nothing interesting comes out of the mouths of professional athletes, it’s refreshing to hear someone react and say exactly what’s on his mind.

Sherman followed up his live rant by penning a column for Sports Illustrated. It’s a fascinating read and a rare look into the psyche of a professional athlete, but one quote in particular stands out: “To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field—don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.”  While that’s great insight, the media and fans everywhere already judged and made up their minds on Richard Sherman’s character.

Sports teams are a lot like companies, they don’t want their employees spouting off and saying things that might damage their brand. (Cue Barry Diller nodding his head). So when we get a little bit of honesty it cuts through the clutter like a Peyton Manning pass.  A player or coach sharing actual thoughts is rare, but when it happens it’s ratings gold.   Unfiltered, off-the-cuff comments are dissected, analyzed and debated by sports commentators and anyone with a Twitter handle for days, weeks even months and with social media some of them live in infamy.

Sherman turned a lot of people off with his bravado, but the NFL and Fox surely don’t mind. By simply speaking his mind he became the most talked about figure of the most talked about game of the year.

Want to guess which player not named Peyton Manning will have the most reporters clamoring for an interview on Super Bowl’s media day?  Richard Sherman was simply being real.  How’s that for a branding strategy?


4 thoughts on “Richard Sherman’s Big Mouth

  1. I am a big Richard Sherman fan…read the following commentary…
    During a Wednesday press conference, Sherman was asked if “thug,” a word that was used often on message boards and social media to describe the Seahawks cornerback, bothers him more than any other term.

    “The reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s an accepted way of calling somebody the N-word now,” he said. “It’s like everybody else said the N-word and then they say ‘thug’ and that’s fine. It kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing because they know.

    “What’s the definition of a thug? Really? Can a guy on a football field just talking to people [be a thug?] … There was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey! (Laughter from the media) They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and said, ‘Ah, man, I’m the thug? What’s going on here?'” (More laughter from the media). So I’m really disappointed in being called a thug,” he said.

    Later, Sherman explained that the term was especially troubling given that it’s something he’s endured his whole life.

    “I know some ‘thugs,’ and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug,” Sherman said. “I’ve fought that my whole life, just coming from where I’m coming from. Just because you hear Compton (Calif.), 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 they’re like, ‘oh man, 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.”

    Deadspin notes that the word “thug” was uttered 625 times on American television the day following the Seahawks’ win. That’s more than any other single day in the last three years.

  2. Underrated subplot of all this is Richard Sherman’s contract. He made just a shade over $500,000 this season, a pittance for a player of his caliber. He doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2015. Say he decides to hold out next season for a new contract? That 5 seconds with Erin Andrews alone likely drove up his value by the millions.

    With Peyton Manning and Tom Brady near the end of their careers, Sherman has a chance to be the new figurehead of the NFL. If he planned this along, and the SI column suggests he is very conscious of his public image, then that Stanford degree is well-deserved.

  3. Nothing beats Joe Namath telling Erin Andrews on Monday Night Football “I want to kiss you” Haha. Probably got him a new shaving cream commercial.