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Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman may be one of the most loathed men in America right now. Social media are abuzz with so-called football fans who are rooting for the Denver Broncos to win today’s Super Bowl because Mr. Sherman plays for the other team.
The public outrage about Mr. Sherman has little to do with football. Two weeks have passed since he became a household name after a controversial TV interview in which he declared that he was the best cornerback in the game. Mr. Sherman yelled his comments just seconds after he deflected what would have been a game-winning pass, sending his team to the pro football championship game.
Reaction to Mr. Sherman’s outburst was swift and nasty. In an instant, some Americans turned to race-based hatred and innuendo to trash Mr. Sherman. That provided a despicable reminder that America’s so-called post-racial society is anything but that.
The hype machine has stayed in overdrive. Mr. Sherman is contrasted with the affable, aw-shucks, good-guy Peyton Manning, Denver’s quarterback. Mr. Manning happens to be white.
Mr. Sherman is portrayed as the angry and egotistical villain who deserves to be put in his place. He is an African-American who wears dreadlocks. And though he is a Stanford University graduate, to many he is just a street thug.
At a press conference last week, Mr. Sherman talked about the use of “thug” as a code word: “It seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the n-word nowadays,” he said. “What’s the definition of a thug, really?”
Mr. Sherman displayed a lack of decorum in his postgame interview. One man is never bigger than his team, or the game itself. But the backlash he is experiencing casts a dismal light on race relations in this country.
It is unfortunate that today’s game has largely become the Broncos versus Richard Sherman. The National Football League likely welcomes the added attention to its money-making spectacle. But when the Seahawks and Broncos take the field, it would be best if the country celebrated only its love for the game.