Unethical Essay Of The Month: “Richard Sherman And The Plight Of The Conquering Negro” By Greg Sherman

In case you missed it, being one of the Americans who has decided not to subsidize young men permanently crippling their brains to slake our blood-lust, the NFC Championship game yielded an instant classic moment.  Star Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman first mocked San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree, whom he had just bested, then set a new high for post-game jerkdom when he screamed into the camera during a post-game interview,

“I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me. […] Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”

I understand that the player was excited and jacked-up over his play and his team’s victory, and I assumed that once he calmed down, he would regret bombarding poor Erin Andrews with a macho rant when she asked a straightforward question. Nonetheless, when you act like that on national television, you are going to get criticized no matter who you are or what the justification. (Sherman apologized later.) Ah, but if you are in the white guilt and race-baiting business, even such an open-and-shut case as this becomes fodder for dark pronouncements about America’s racist culture. And so it was that over at the sports site Deadspin, Greg Howard announced that Sherman’s foolishness wasn’t being mocked far and wide because it was rude, arrogant, uncalled for and certifiably strange, but because he is black.

Wrote Howard, in part:

“When you’re a public figure, there are rules. Here’s one: A public personality can be black, talented, or arrogant, but he can’t be any more than two of these traits at a time. It’s why antics and soundbites from guys like Brett Favre, Johnny Football and Bryce Harper seem almost hyper-American, capable of capturing the country’s imagination, but black superstars like Sherman, Floyd Mayweather, and Cam Newton are seen as polarizing, as selfish, as glory boys, as distasteful and perhaps offensive. It’s why we recoil at Kanye West’s rants, like when West, one of the greatest musical minds of our generation, had the audacity to publicly declare himself a genius (was this up for debate?), and partly why, over the six years of Barack Obama’s presidency, a noisy, obstreperous wing of the GOP has seemed perpetually on the cusp of calling him “uppity.” Barry Bonds at his peak was black, talented, and arrogant; he was a problem for America. Joe Louis was black, talented, and at least outwardly humble; he was “a credit to his race, the human race,” as Jimmy Cannon once wrote. All this is based on the common, very American belief that black males must know their place, and more tellingly, that their place is somewhere different than that of whites. It’s been etched into our cultural fabric that to act as anything but a loud, yet harmless buffoon or an immensely powerful, yet humble servant is overstepping. It’s uppity. It is, as Fox Sports’s Kayla Knapp tweeted last night, petrifying.”

What do you say: malicious, deluded, dishonest, or just stupid beyond all measure? Whichever it was, and there is no fifth choice, it was irresponsible for Howard to author this piece, and for Deadspin to run it.

The easy answer to Howard’s contention is that nobody in the public eye can get away for long with being arrogant, except for one famous individual, whom I will name after quickly listing just some of those of many colors, genders and creeds who have paid the price in various ways for prominently displaying the trait: Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Marion Barry, Michael Bloomberg, Newt Gingrich, Antonin Scalia, Alex Rodriguez, William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal, Dennis Rodman, the Williams sisters, Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose, Joe Namath, General Douglas MacArthur, Tiger Woods, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Jack Johnson, Ray Charles, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Russell, Christopher Hitchens, Keith Olberman, Donald Trump…how much time do you have? The one exception in my lifetime, a man whose arrogance didn’t stop him from being one of the most popular and honored athletes of all time, would be Mohammad Ali. He was, you will note, a black man, and among the most popular of all heavyweight boxing champions, certainly as popular at Joe Louis.. The most arrogant of the champs was probably Jack Johnson (whose fictionalized story was told in “The Great White Hope”), and indeed Jackson would fit Howard’s thesis…if it were, say, 1910 rather than a hundred years later.  (The most arrogant of the white heavyweight boxing champs was probably Max Baer. He was not especially popular. Too arrogant, you know.)

A writer trying to make the difficult case that Sherman was being punished less for his ridiculous outburst than for his race has a high burden of proof, which Howard doesn’t even attempt to meet. Can he find an example of a remotely similar rant by a white man that was not greeted with disdain? No. Frankly, I can’t think of anything similar by anyone, unless it is Howard Dean’s infamous “Dean Scream” after the Iowa Caucus in 2004, which effectively ended his run for the presidency as well as his political career. Last I looked, Dean was white, and yes, the criticism he received was excessive.

The examples Howard does cite are beyond belief. Barry Bonds was a surly, defiant, almost intentionally unattractive presence in baseball, and that was before he started cheating with steroids. All of the claims that Bonds’ critics were motivated by race magically evaporated when white stars Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire were linked to PEDs and were similarly pilloried, though Bonds was worse than either. I guess Howard missed that chapter. And Kanye West—who needs to resort to prejudice to find  Kanye West objectionable? West is a talented rapper if you admire misogynist patter; he may also be the preeminent loud-mouth narcissist on the planet. Some think he is obnoxious because he fathered a child (which he inflicted with the name North West)  with a Kardashian, which is a crime against the gene pool (the fewer Kardashians the better); some, like me, hold the fact that he used a telethon to accuse President Bush of intentionally withholding aid from New Orleans after Katrina against him, or, also like me, they find his using his crypto-wife as soft porn fodder in a rap-video as repugnant. Or perhaps they just think a star whose reaction to a little ribbing on a comedy show is a twitter rant like this…


kanye West tweets

…displays the emotional maturity of a toddler. Whatever the reason one chooses to dislike West’s personality, he is a jerk, guilty of perpetual, predictable, serial jerk behavior, as reliable as a well-tuned watch. Attributing criticism of his conduct to racism is  laughable and desperate, like attributing criticism of Barack Obama’s performance in the White House to racism…and Howard does this, too.

Like others, including, for some reason, the hacks at MSNBC, Howard cites carefully harvested racist tweets following Sherman’s rant as support for his analysis. Yes, there are ugly racists out there, and morons, and the twitterverse is teeming with all sorts of sad mutations of humanity. And anyone who wants to waste their time can cull similar junk about any public figure, black or white, left or right; for example, Michelle Malkin’s cite Twitchy specializes in  finding the most hateful and idiotic tweets aimed at conservatives. Howard resorts to this pathetic evidence of nothing because he has nothing better to support his provocative title.

Richard Sherman’s meltdown was poor sportsmanship that reflected badly on himself and his team, and most of the criticism of it was justified. Howard’s accusation is an insult to everyone who reacted correctly to a young man who needs to learn that proclaiming one’s own virtues in a shout is bad form no matter how good you are, and the Deadspin essay was both naked race-baiting and lousy advocacy. Is he black? I have no idea, but if he is, I’m sure he’ll attribute this post to racism too.


Pointer: Bob Bartlett

Source: Deadspin, USA Today,

63 thoughts on “Unethical Essay Of The Month: “Richard Sherman And The Plight Of The Conquering Negro” By Greg Sherman

  1. Frankly, I thought the Sherman “interview” wasn’t all that shocking…

    I mean, this is a guy who’s been trading smack-talk for a week with a division rival and just a minute or two before had made a play that cinched the win for his team…

    I’m pretty sure ANYONE would be a little keyed up after that.

      • I’ve seen, what, hundreds of jacked-up athletes flush from an exhilarating win, and except for pro wrestling and Ali, I’ve never seen any of them act like that. And Ali could get away with it, because his exuberance was infectious, and he had charm, which is all-forgiving.

        • He’s quite the jokester as well. While stationed at Fort Knox a few of us visited his museum just north in Louisville. During our tour, a very large crowd was meandering through the exhibits. Curious, we tagged along and eased in, to discover none other than the Greatest, in person, touring his own museum.

          Having had a solid number of blows, the trauma of which manifest through Parkinson’s was showing. He feebly went from display to display, struggling to keep pace compared to the energy of the crowd with him. We were near him at one point, his family (we assumed) respectful and nearby. He quipped at several spots “this is alot of stuff here”, “who won all this?”, the crowd sighing with pity.

          At a video of one of his fights, he softly remarked “that young man is a great fighter, what’s his name?”

          To which a member of the crowd leaned over, “sir, that’s…”

          “I know who that is, youngster, it’s me! I’m putting y’all on!” he cut him off with exuberance, the rest of the tour he moved with more speed.

          The joker…

          His museum had a funny exhibit. Amusingly blocked off by a huge sign that said “check out all our other exhibits such as the…” the sign was clearly meant to keep you from the exhibit it blocked. Intrigued we looked behind to find a punching bag, with a boxing glove attached to a pneumatic hammer on one side. The placard read, to the effect: hug the punching bag and press the red button to feel what a punch from Mohammad Ali felt like.


          I can only assume that after it was built, the curators and the curator’s lawyers decided that it probably wasn’t in the interests of the museum’s interests to have that exhibit functioning.

          • My Mom, who, like many first generation Greek-Americans, had her problems with racial issues, was seated next to Ali in the 70s at a Harvard function. She was wowed and star-struck, telling me that he was one of the most charming, funny, smartest and delightful young men she had ever had the pleasure to meet. He made her a civil rights advocate in the span of one lunch!

    • Right? She asked the best question of all. To believe Sherman’s side of things you have to think that all these players are secretly trash talking all the time and ONLY Richard Sherman has the guts to call them out. Or…the problem is him.

  2. When will we ever get past the “race” excuse for misbehavior, insulting comments, poor leadership, and general bad behavior? This guy is an asshole, and white or black, should be viewed as one.

    It’s very interesting to me the someone like Bill Cosby (who was a stand-up comedian, had two hit TV shows when blacks NEVER did) gave a speech to the NAACP a few years ago and basically said — the opportunities are there, the race excuse no longer holds, we have to take care of our own, we have to stop being victims but move ahead. The NAACP audience booed him, even though he was, the THE prime example of a black man being loved and popular and IT WASN’T ABOUT HIS RACE. His TV shows weren’t about race. He had them because he was talented and witty and no one even thought about his race.

    GET OFF IT! Being black (or any other race) doesn’t give you leave to be an asshole, moron, bad sport, or abusive. This kind of stuff does more to increase the divide among the races/ethnicities than anything else. And it’s just pure crap.

    • “When will we ever get past the “race” excuse for misbehavior, insulting comments, poor leadership, and general bad behavior?”

      Never, as long as it is as profitable as a union boss siphoning funds from those he supposedly advocates for.

      Never, as long as the narrative successfully helps to keep a key demographic solidly in a certain political plantation camp.

  3. Respectfully –

    You fell for it. You fell for the latest Gawker Media race bait and made this blog post. Now they will reap the traffic and ad revenue and race relations in this country will be just a little worse off in aggregate as a result.

    The best thing to do, the most ethical thing, is to simply ignore their bad faith attempts to stoke the fires of racial animus for money.

          • Not to mention that an ethics blog doesn’t have the same freedom to “simply ignore” something that a random social site does, not when there’s an issue to be explored.

        • Exactly.

          I won’t post any links, but Gawker Media (which owns several influential sites, including Deadspin and Jezebel) has a bad reputation for inflammatory clickbait. When the Penn State child molestation story broke, they actually ran a column that speculated how much worse the reaction would have been if Paterno and Sandusky had been black.

          • Except that the West, Bonds and Obama racism excuses are all well-worn, and have been seriously posited—in the President’s case, virtually every day for more than five years. This just isn’t that far from what columnists at the Huffington Post and MSNBC write and say every other day to discard as insincere click-bait. Too many people buy it. And believe it.

  4. Kanye is a genius? That’s news to me.

    (And before anyone accuses me of anything, I’m certain Miles Davis was a genius, and his comments were often even more acerbic (if more literate) than anything Kanye has said).

    • I mean, he really is a really good rapper. You don’t have to like his content or even the genre, he’s very very good at it.

  5. It seems to me that the people who are most apt to be insufferable are the ones who feel entitled. Nothing raaaacist about that. But, I don’t suppose there’s a lot of money or power to be had by carrying water for the insufferably egotistical moderately talented entitled.

        • Color is irrelevant. His rant was classless and unsportsmanlike and displayed a lack of discipline. That’s an indictment on him, not on being African American.

          Needing to wait for a similar rant by a white player is also irrelevant. Even if it were, Jack listed several examples of arrogant white players and the social backlash generated.

          It isn’t a race thing as much as the race baiters desperately need it to be to keep justifying their role and livelihoods.

  6. I think this has to be separated in to three areas of thought.

    (1) Did some people attack him on this because he was black and were their attacks racial? Yes, I saw a lot of attacks on him calling a “thug” , ‘street thug” “hoodlum” and the such. Words that wouldn’t be used to describe him if he was a white football player.
    (2) Were all attacks on him racial . No, A great deal I saw were based on decorum and a sense of manners .
    (3) Were his actions inappropriate? Who cares? Its football. The concept of the sport is to injure another person, its one step above professional wresting. so why should be expect the player, the owners or the league to not act this way.

    The day after this happened he had a commercial air where the “reporters” were asking him about his behavior and someone called him a thug. I think his actions after the game were just a marketing ploy to tie into that.

    • If you begin with the assumption that football is just a step above the WWF, then this is correct….though the post being discussed didn’t say argue that some of th criticism of Sherman was race-based, which is true but irrelevant, but that the only reason anyone would criticize it is because blacks get criticized for arrogance and uncivil rants and whites don’t…which is stupid.

      And the word “thug” is not racist. Many were calling Gv. Cuomo a thug after his silly interview about conservatives not being fit to live in New York. Or maybe in his case, it’s anti-Italian…

      • Unfortunately “thug” is becoming one of those racist code words we keep hearing about. Because of its association with the “thug life” meme in rap and hip hop it’s become associated with black urban criminals (never mind its well-worn history with Kali cultists and the Mafia…)

      • I find it highly unlikely that the people who were using it, and Im talking about people I know, didn’t mean it as a racist insult. Not a ONE of them knew anything about him except he was a black. They had idea that he Graduated second in his class in high school or went to Stanford. To him he was a “street thug”. When he is anything but.

    • (3) Were his actions inappropriate? Who cares?
      I care.
      I wanted to watch a PROFESSIONAL football game, not a ridiculous display of poor sportsmanship and a glaringly obvious lack of class.
      I miss the days of Jerry Rice and suchlike.

      Not every criticism of a person or their actions is based on racism.
      However, most accusations of racism are attempts to silence fair criticism.

      • Youd need a time machine to a professional football game. They haven’t played one in 20 years.

        No not every criticism of a person is based on racism and my post acknowledges that.

  7. “…being one of the Americans who has decided not to subsidize young men permanently crippling their brains to slake our blood-lust,…”

    Not me, not yet. I do plan to watch the Feb 2 Super Bowl.

    But, it did disturb me more than I can describe, when I caught a couple of minutes of Rush Limbaugh (yesterday? Couple of days ago?), saying to the effect that the Chronic Traumatic Enceph…(“CTE” – I can’t remember the whole jingo) is alarmist, wussy control-freak hooey.

    I stopped watching boxing years ago. Today’s MMA (Maiming, Mutilating Assault) causes me to close my eyes while switching channels. I am hopeful that before I die, I will “evolve” to a similar point of completely rejecting American football in its current state as “sport.” Gad, I am even starting to question the necessity for many of the competitions in rodeos, without even thinking about dominion-over-animals ethics…calf-roping, OK; bull-riding, WHY?!

    Now…if we could just get the basketballers to either wear more pads, or learn to play the game without grinding and slamming into each other…and eject base runners who leave any evidence of a spike mark on a fielder, or of deliberate intent to collide with a fielder…and design barriers on the diamonds so that fielders can collide with them at full speed without risking their careers, then I will feel closer to optimally comfortable in my American team sports-appreciating skin.

    But we ’murcans still have a long way to go before indoor soccer challenges basketball for spectator interest, as it should. I miss the Washington Warthogs!

    • I really didn’t mean to go so far off topic. But the tolerance of violent contact sports does seem to correlate to the forced, poly-schizoid tolerance of uncivil speech for the sake of perpetuating race-based divisiveness.

    • I miss the Warthogs too.
      Baseball has made me proud by acting to stop home plate collisions even though the move is wildly unpopular among the hardcore baseball fans. Rush’s “chickafication” argument against taking measures to save players’ lives in the NFL is just appalling…there’s no other word for it.

        • The exact text has not been approved, but the rule will apparently say that the runner has to go for the plate, not seek contact with the catcher, and it the catcher blocks the runner’s access to the plate before he has the ball, it will be obstruction. In other words, the rule at home will be like it is at 3rd, and will be called accordingly. Everyone is interested to see what the actual language is. The rules never permitted catchers to obstruct the plate, but it was never called.

              • Good! But god knows it got me thrown out of more baseball games then I care to count. My feeling was if the catcher didn’t want my cleats in his nuts he would get the hell out of my way.

                • I played with that same feeling. I just didn’t go in cleats first, so I didn’t get ejected. I aimed for shoulder-to-shoulder impact, then plopping down on the plate while hoping I had jarred the ball loose, or jarred the catcher so he couldn’t snag the throw. I hated those plays, and not just because I was called out 100 percent of the time (or so it seemed). We parties to the collisions were teammates in other sports; schoolmates; classmates; protectors (and chasers) of the same girls, lived in the same neighborhood. I didn’t aim to hurt anyone, expected others to play the same way, and I hated feeling obligated to carry out a play in a way that posed a high risk of someone getting hurt. So, I do hope the rules are strict about forbidding catchers (or any fielder) to block the plate.

                  • I was taught by my dad to high slide because I kept on break fingers going in head first. I was too small to bowl anyone over and the high slide got people out of the way. While I never intentionally went for someone’s groin the mechanics of the slide, keeping the feet at or below their knees , made that happen a lot. Its also very intimidating when someone does it and they know its coming.

    • Believe it or not, MMA is actually less likely to cause permanent traumatic injury tha a lot of other combat sports, or even non-combat sports such as football. The reason is how knockouts are called: in football you’re getting hit in the head over and over with breaks in between to recover. In boxing and others if you’re knocked down you have time to shake it off, get up, and keep getting punched. Standard MMA rules dictate that as soon as your defense drops you are considered “out,” so it avoids the chronic trauma that causes long term injury. Of course there are always exceptions like “I didn’t tap out so let me keep going, I don’t care if my arm DID break” Royce Gracie, but they’re not normal.

      • Additionally, boxing gloves provide significant protection to the boxers hands which allows much heavier punches to be thrown than would be possible without gloves, or with gloves similar to those used in MMA.

      • Thanks Luke; from my sons’ participation in MMA, what you say about how matches are conducted is consistent with what I have observed. Likelihoods of effects, though, may stay debatable for another generation or more. Still, blows to the head are allowed in MMA (via leg kicks, as well as via punches by fists). I did enough boxing to know what one blow to the head can do (insert comeback joke). But seeing Joe Louis’s and Ali’s declines, along with enough watching to look back with embarrassment at myself, have moved me to immovable revulsion at and opposition to the “sport.” Watching MMA has not helped me to fancy it any different.

        • Right on, I didn’t mean to imply that it was without risk, but I’m enough a fan with enough friends who participate that I can’t resist defending MMA from people who think of it as way worse than good solid traditional sports like Boxing.

          • I was not a fan of MMA until I saw a friend fight in person. I think I , like a lot people , got put off by the hype we saw on TV .

  8. A few dots . . . Eeyore beat me to the quote about with his description of withdrawal from contact sport fandom (or the worst of it). Mine was early on when a classmate came to school with a huge grin and a comic-book-colored shiner he said his dad gave him. The school nurse (ahh, those were the days) went to the principal — which is about as far as reporting in-family battering would go then (yeah, those were the days all right); the boy was called in, followed by two other boys in the class — all of whom swore it was his own fault for sitting next to his dad on the couch when a boxing match was on; worse if it was football since pop moved around more then. [detour finished]
    So, referring to crippled brains and words that are “certifiably strange,” and the reactions to Sherman’s rant that suggest he doesn’t usually act this way, does anyone know how many times he’s been crashed in the cranium? Could this be an early symptom?
    . . . Chorus of ironic little ditty in the 40s: “Jack johnson wan’td git on board; cap’n yelled ‘I ain’t haulin’ no coal’; Fare thee well, Titanic, fare thee well!” I always thought Johnson was more of a squeaky wheel, or more of a WWF-type verbal intimidator. Or more of both. He certainly needed something extra to survive in the ring in those days.
    . . . Since Pacino Wig (love the handle) brought up Sandusky’s name, the Variety review of the (first-and-last, one hopes) movie about him, Happy Valley, just premiered at Sundance, and is to be found at
    . . . which reminds me: Jack, is there any way to know whether you receive emails or not? If you ever got one, I will assume you get them all, so a yea or nay will do. Thanks.

  9. First sentence above should read: Eeyore beat me to the quote about “crippling their brains” with his description of …. I keep forgetting that I have to proofread BEFORE I post.
    Two googles: … The Titanic tune was nibbling at me so I looked it up: Wow. Leadbelly 1912. One article says he noted that he had to leave out the verse about boxer Jack Johnson when playing before a white audience.
    . . . and last, I swear. I was surprised to discover that for a corner, “the skillset typically requires proficiency in” . . . back-pedalling. So maybe it was just high spirits after all.

  10. I just couldn’t let this pass:

    “(The most arrogant of the white heavyweight boxing champs was probably Max Baer. He was not especially popular. Too arrogant, you know.)”

    Where do you get this from? Everything Ive ever read about him was that he as a happy go lucky sweet man. Nothing like the way he was portrayed in Cinderella Man.

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