Richard Sherman’s unsportsmanlike behavior is unacceptable

Posted on January 30, 2014


The man of the hour as the Superbowl approaches has been Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He’s been all over TV, talked about and interviewed over and over. He’s probably gotten almost as much attention as future Hall of Famer, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

For an obscure defensive player that I, for one, don’t recall ever having heard of until a couple of weeks ago, how did it happen that Sherman became the center of media attention during Superbowl week?

I think it happened because Richard Sherman planned it that way.

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman

A post-game blast the media couldn’t resist

You may know that Sherman entered the limelight with a post-game rant after the NFC championship game two weeks ago. During a TV interview immediately following the Seahawks’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Sherman screamed into the camera that he was the greatest in the league at his position, and that the opposing player he had been up against in the game, receiver Michael Crabtree, was “mediocre” at best.

That blast, and another that followed during the post-game press conference, drew immediate widespread attention. The twitter universe exploded with comment, most of it extremely negative, much of it vitriolic, and some of it overtly racist. Supporters said that’s just Richard being Richard. Others labeled him a thug, a term which in our society has become a codeword for a very offensive racial stereotype.

A savvy young man who knew exactly what he was doing

Is Richard Sherman a thug? It so happens that he graduated from Stanford with 3.9 GPA, and is now pursuing a Master’s degree. When not ranting, he comes across as thoughtful and articulate. He is the founder of the the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, which aims at ensuring “that as many children as possible are provided with proper school supplies and adequate clothing.” Richard Sherman is obviously no uncaring, me-only dummy.

That’s what leads me to believe that Sherman knew exactly what he was doing in his post-game statements. To be fair, he has since publicly apologized for his unsportsmanlike behavior toward a vanquished opponent, and for taking the spotlight away from his teammates.

But I think that in doing what he did, Sherman was fully aware that the only way for a defensive player like himself to get media attention was to be as outrageous as possible. Even though most observers agree that he is indeed the best in the world right now at what he does, nobody would be talking about Richard Sherman if it was not for the shock value of his on-camera behavior.

Was Sherman justified in doing what he did to get attention?

Richard Sherman’s strategy of engaging in thoroughly unsportsmanlike conduct in order to get ahead in his career as a celebrity football player has so far been very successful. Even while some commentators criticize him, the media overall has richly rewarded him for his boldness in overturning the norms of acceptable behavior for an athlete.

But is it right?

I think the Bible answers that question definitively:

Proverbs 27:2 (NKJV) Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.

James 4:6b God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

The ends don’t justify the means. Sherman’s tactic got him what he wanted, but at what cost? His team must face the distractions caused by his behavior as they attempt to prepare for the big game. A generation of starry-eyed youngsters, who inevitably see a high-profile football player as a role model, are being taught life lessons that most parents wouldn’t want them to learn. And Sherman himself, in many ways an estimable young man, has cast a shadow over his own reputation that may take years to dissipate.

But most of all, the media’s not just acceptance, but promotion of Richard Sherman’s “look at me!” behavior serves to help diminish just a little bit more the moral outlook of a nation that already seems to be rushing headlong toward spiritual darkness.