Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman ignited his name brand with the sideline interview heard ’round the world. Trading banal sound bites for raw exuberance, he offered the most memorable tirade in modern sports memory. It dominated the week’s sports cycle with predictable finger-wagging over poor sportsmanship and self-serving harrumphs about obscuring his team’s win.
This wasn’t something Sherman could bat away like an errant pass. American controversies demand a cycle of explanations, apologies, and social media bloodletting. By then, the public discussion is well underway, served up with the usual polarized frenzy.
More so this time, because Sherman is African American, and was shouting through his adrenal glands. It didn’t take long for racial dogwhistles to blow. They summoned bottom-feeders from the rank depths of social media; most easily identified by protests of “I’m-not-racist-but” and “I-have-black-friends” with every vile utterance. Sherman’s more genteel critics would consider outright epithets too crude, so they embraced “thug” as their code word of choice.
Sherman didn’t need his Stanford communications degree to correctly interpret “thug”, and wasted no time calling out these barrel-scrapers in a press conference:
[box type=”shadow”]The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays. It’s like everybody else said the N-word and then they say thug. And that’s fine. That’s where it’s kind of, you know, it kind of takes me aback. And it’s kind of disappointing because they know. What’s the definition of a thug, really?”[/box]
The original discussion, lasting maybe 24 hours, was about sportsmanship, his feud with Michael Crabtree, and the nature of sideline interviews. To whatever extent one may dislike or disagree with Sherman, denigrating him with the “thug” pejorative forfeits your argument. Prejudice does love the sour notes of an old dogwhistle.
h/t: Think Progress