There has been quite a bit of controversy stemming from Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game comments after the Seahawks’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago. At first, people were up in arms about Sherman calling out 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree for his mediocrity and basically labeling him a sorry excuse for a receiver. In fact, people were so upset by his post-game comments that he was labeled a “thug” over 600 times on national television and had a wide assortment of awful things said about him on Twitter.

There are two problems with this assessment of Sherman. The first problem is that Sherman’s statements, though they appear to be unnecessarily rude in light of the fact that he’d just won, were actually justified. I don’t believe that he is right about Crabtree being mediocre -— I personally feel that he is overrated, but his numbers are decent. Crabtree had slighted him in the past and had refused to shake Sherman’s hand after the game, shoving him away by the facemask instead.  So, of course Sherman is going to be upset.

Moreover, there are two reasonable explanations for why he was shouting during the interview. First, he was excited that he had just led his team to the Super Bowl and had completely shutout the receiver who had trash-talked him in the past. The other may have to do with the fact that he was standing in the middle of the loudest stadium in the NFL. However, despite his actions being justifiable, he was labeled a thug.

After surveying all of the players in the NFL, it is difficult to see what exactly makes Sherman deserving of that label. Now, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is a true thug. He has attacked innocent people, been accused of shooting his friend, and is on trial for homicide. Sherman, on the other hand, has never been arrested. He isn’t even considered a dirty player. So, what makes Sherman a thug? Well, it could be because he is from Compton, California, which is known for its crime rate and the rap group NWA. Or maybe it is because he went to Dominguez High School, where about 40 percent of students don’t graduate on time and eight percent drop out of school altogether. Speaking of education, maybe his 1400 SAT score, 4.2 high school GPA, and pursuit of a master’s degree in communications at Stanford combine to make him a thug.

This is perplexing, though, because I am a well-educated, articulate individual with no criminal record who also happens to be from a not-so-great southern California neighborhood, yet I am not labeled a thug. The only real difference is that I am white and he is black. And there is the second problem with calling Sherman a thug. According to Sherman, “it’s the accepted way of calling people the n-word nowadays.” I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, but it definitely has racist undertones.

One could try to point to troubled Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito as a counter to this argument, since he is white, yet many reputable news sources have referred to him as a thug in recent years. The difference between his case and Sherman’s is that Incognito actually is a thug. He has gouged players’ eyes, stomped on their ankles, punched players, made illegal tackles on players, harassed his own teammates, and was voted dirtiest player in the league by other players in 2009. It is the same in other sports, such as hockey and rugby – white players are called thugs, but only when they actually are really dirty, like in the case of English rugby player Sam Burgess. When I scoured the web, I couldn’t find one example of a white player being called a thug simply for trash-talking.

For the reasons listed above, the treatment that Sherman has received cannot be described as anything other than extremely unfair. Keith Donerson, the head football coach at Dominguez High School, described Sherman as someone who read a lot, refused to talk slang and was often seen helping other students with their homework. This type of behavior, which underscores Sherman’s industriousness and focus, is how he went from fifth round pick in the draft to best cornerback in the league in three years’ time. This isn’t the behavior of a thug; it is the behavior of a role model.

Ondo is a member of 

the class of 2014.

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