Richard Sherman: The Stanford Thug

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“I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me. All I’m trying to do is survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty unbelievable lifestyle that they gave me”.
-Tupac Shakur

Thug Life was a phrase that was proliferated throughout the catacombs of urban street corners, making its way to mainstream America by way of an interview conducted by the late, great Tupac Shakur with radio station KMEL (California) in 1996. Although Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a thug as “a brutal ruffian or assassin”; the connotation by which Mr. Shakur subscribed to, gave an entirely different meaning to the phrase. “Thug-Life” is actually an acronym, that when broken down stands for “The Hate U Gave Little Infants F@cks Everybody”. Tupac would go on to expound on the thinking behind the acronym by stating that what has been fed to a child from birth (hate, ignorance, poverty, violence etc.) ends up coming home to roost when that child becomes an adult and acts on what he or she has been taught from day one. This psychoanalysis by Tupac, borders on the same genius to that of the saliva study conducted by Pavlov on his trusty canine counterpart. Tupac would go on to not only tattoo the “Thug Life” phrase on his belly, but he would also use it as a calling card for awareness for the urban black male. This calling card would eventually result in him writing a manifesto street code for peace, that would in turn, be signed by the leaders of the Bloods and Crips street gangs. Tupac’s intelligence was always masterfully disguised because of his outward persona, controversial statements and seemingly unapologetic bravado. Those who identified with him and embraced his unbridled extroversive tendencies, adored him and often recognize and acknowledged him as a highly intelligent and extremely conscious individual. It is often the cover by which as book is truly judged, however it is in the context of its pages that the deliverance of a fascinating tale of two cities unfolds. Oddly enough, the extroversive tendencies of another individual is the focus of this blog entry. He, much like Tupac Shakur, fully displays his unapologetic bravado in front of the camera, on Twitter, on Instagram and various other social media outlets. It would not be until the end of the NFL’s NFC Championship game, that the world would be introduced to one of the most trending topics of interest. His name? Richard Sherman.

Richard Kevin Sherman is the starting cornerback for the NFL Seattle Seahawks franchise. His seemingly brash disposition, along with, his widely criticized pension for self promotion, has garnered him some highly provocative attention amongst the NFL community. The controversial antics, which included snapping pictures of defeated opponents in down trodden positions and making a mockery of them and tweeting highly respected peers who play the same position to call them out competitively; all which are considered to be acts not palatable in the unwritten rules of sportsmanship conduct. These purported “bush league” tactics are frowned upon by many of the purists of the game, however, the workings of each generation changes, thus ushering in new ideologies and ultimately a new regime that pushes the boundaries of culture as a whole. The point of the matter is like it or not, today’s world is not our world; and to think that it will suddenly spin back to the future like Marty Mcfly is a naive premise at best. So as we jettison to Sunday’s NFC Championship game and we have a 25-year-old man who just made arguably one of the greatest plays in his short NFL career. He is high off of adrenalin and “feeling himself” due to the fact that this play occurred versus his arch nemesis. Should it come as shock to anyone that his speech was more improvisational and less written prepared? If a microphone was shoved into anyone’s face after a moment of elation, I can all but guarantee that “the moment” would supersede all logical thinking and the person who you are instinctively will come out full throttle and extremely transparent. But is this not what the media searches for? Do reporters not seek the “colorful” instead of uninspiring gray? Is it not the Richard Sherman types that reporters want to seek in the hopes that he/she will offer up a classic sound bite? The problem in this particular case was the fact that the reporter, for once, was not ready for the interviewer. Especially an interviewer who utilized a classic reporters tool, in catching her off guard and putting her on the spot. It was in Erin Andrews’ flinching and unpreparedness, that an act of a verbal cheap shot turned it into what many deemed as an apparent accosting. The fact that Erin Andrews is Caucasian and Richard Sherman is African-American, all but opened the flood gates up for every bigotry driven ignoramus to spew out his/her venomous hatred. Richard Sherman has been called every derogatory and incendiary racial epitaph in the handbook. Words like gorilla, nigger and thug have all been projected in Richard Sherman’s direction; all on the cusp of him saying he was better than another player of African-American descent. Are these racial taunts about Michael Crabtree or are they about Erin Andrews and a boisterous African-American male who she looked like she had just seen for the first time? Not to say that her reaction was racially laced, however, America’s response to her reaction speaks volumes about perception versus that of character content. Tupac Shakur once stated that no matter what a black man accomplishes, he will still be viewed as a nigger by the mainstream public. Maybe Tupac Shakur painted that statement with too wide of an inclusion brush, however his theory/belief has merit. The rundown resume on Richard Sherman is one that should be celebrated, as he has done his community more of a service than a disservice. Born in Compton California, Richard Sherman went on to attend Stanford University where he graduated with a GPA of 3.9. He would return after graduating from Stanford to continue his Masters degree in communication. This supposed “thug” exemplifies the term “student athlete” and has provided a blueprint for other young men in the African-American community to adhere to and abide by. The fact that a brash demeanor is enough to conjure up a barrage of racially fueled retorts, all but solidifies what is in the hearts of many Americans who secretly hide their hoods in their closet for special occasions such as this. It further proves that accomplishments, especially those that garner high financial rewards, makes the African-American not only a target for criticism, but it also makes him/her an apparent thug if boisterous. I’d like to applaud this type of thug representing my culture, because unlike the mantra that was adopted by Tupac Shakur, the little infant named Richard Sherman overcame the statistics and is drowning out the “hate” with a pair of his recently endorsed Beats Audio headphones. What gets lost in this quagmire is the fact that Richard Sherman does have a degree in mass communication. Perhaps he’s brilliantly putting his well-earned degree to good use, because he is now more relevant than ever. It’s apropos to cue the Aloe Blacc song. #you can tell everybody I’m the man!

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