Insane football fan that I am, I watched the NFC Championship game pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks. I watched it to its completion, so naturally, I also saw Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game “rant” during an interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews.
In the forty seconds that follow in the video clip below, you’ll see Sherman rip 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, whom he had just defended by tipping the ball to a teammate for a game-ending interception.
My first reaction was: What a classless **ck.
I play football and occasionally we get jerks who feel compelled to trash talk their opponents by dismissing their talents. I don’t like it. And I’d seen this kind of behavior from Sherman earlier in the year when the Seahawks played my team, the Minnesota Vikings.
During that game, Sherman dissed Vikings receivers by using the ho-hum gesture of tapping his palm to his mouth, as if to say: You guys are so lacking in talent that I’m bored to tears. (Sherman got burned for a touchdown in that game by Vikings receiver Jarius Wright, I’m happy to add.)
I was thus inclined to simply believe that Sherman was just a jerk being a jerk.
But then I stated connecting some dots.
Today, in a piece on Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback site, Richard Sherman published an article title “To Those Who Would Call Me a Thug or Worse…” in which he defended himself primarily as reacting to the heat of the moment and responding to animosity from Crabtree himself.
It is curious that Sherman uses the word Thug in his title. It’s a provocative word.
In the article, Sherman refers to racist tweets that were sent his way in the aftermath of the interview and it is important to note that the word Thug is often code that racists will use to refer to young black men. I do not doubt for a moment that there were plenty of racist tweets sent his way. But there is another instance in which Sherman was referred to as a Thug: His own commercial for Beats by Dre (47 seconds in):
Richard Sherman’s Beats by Dre Commercial
Huh. The commercial just happened to be uploaded to YouTube on Sunday, January 19, just in time to capitalize on the controversy over Sherman’s interview and the buzz surrounding his response to the backlash on one of the most popular football sites in the world. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Fellow Beats by Dre Spokesman, Colin Kaepernick “Choked”
Let me add some fuel to this fire. Sam Page at Extra Mustard points out that after the final play of the game, Sherman directed the following choking gesture 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s way:
Richard Sherman with the “Choke” signal. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/Ui6GPrA1Ft
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) January 20, 2014
If you follow the NFL at all closely, you’ll know that Kaepernick, too, has a deal with Beats by Dre, with the following ad running for at least a month. Forty-one seconds in, a fictional Seattle fan gives Kaepernick the very same choke gesture Sherman used on Sunday.
The premise of the Beats by Dre ads are Haters Gonna Hate but Beats by Dre drown them out. So is this a case of provoking the haters?
Stanford grad Richard Sherman is no idiot: He returned in his final year of eligibility, according to Wikipedia, to start his Masters degree and he graduated with a degree in Communications. Given that schooling, you’d imagine he’d have a sound understanding of how the media works..and, perhaps, even, about how to manipulate the media.
This all smells entirely too much like a deliberately generated controversy intended to amp up buzz about Sherman from which Beats by Dre would benefit through exposure. The only questions I have are whether these incidents were planned campaign elements by Beats by Dre itself or if they are the result of a sponsor intent of providing value to his client.
The only coincidence I see in all this is the fact that Sherman happened to play an integral part of the final play of the game.