First, he’s the Seahawks’ part-time nickel defensive back.
Next, he’s extending himself far beyond the comfortable, safe norm for a sports star, taking a strong stand in our society’s Black Lives Matter movement.
One week into the 2015 season, Richard Sherman is absolutely confident in his new positions.
“He can do it all,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday, four days before he faces Sherman and the Seahawks for the third time in 12 months at Lambeau Field. “You can’t really compare him to other guys.”
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On or off the field.
In a remarkable press conference Wednesday that only the All-Pro cornerback would do, Sherman discredited without being asked an internet posting he said was erroneously attributed to him. In it, the author denounced a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement. The posting had misspellings and grammar mistakes that make it doubtful an A-student graduate of Stanford, as Sherman is, wrote it.
“There were some points that were in that article, or that post, that were relevant and I could agree with,” he said. “But there were also some, obviously, ignorant points in there. I don’t think (there’s) any time to call out a time for an all-out war against police, to, you know, any race of people. I thought that was an ignorant statement.
“It was poorly written, but it made some great points. … All lives do matter. It’s important for people to understand that. And I don’t think people do. I think people are trying to categorize and cut everybody off. I have black friends, white friends, Asian friends, Polynesian friends. I have every race, and I don’t think we ever thought about race being an issue when we became friends. And I think that’s where we should get to in society.”
It surprised those listening who were expecting to hear about Sherman moving from his left-outside cornerback to the inside to play nickel back against slot receivers, as he did last week at St. Louis — and is likely to do again Sunday night in the Seahawks’ early season, marquee game at Green Bay.
He took on an entire societal movement with which he has first-hand experience with growing up in Compton, California. He tackled head-on a hugely important, real and controversial issue in our society without regard for the backlash he immediately received for it.
“From personal experience, living in the ‘hood, living in the inner city, you deal with different things. You deal with people dying,” Sherman, 27, said. “I dealt with a best friend getting killed, and it was two, 35-year-old black men. Wasn’t no police officers involved. There wasn’t anyone else involved. I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘Black lives matter!’ then.
“And I think that’s, that’s the point we need to get to. We need to deal with our own, internal issue before we move forward and start pointing fingers and start attacking other people. We need to solidify ourselves as a people and deal with our issues. Because I think as long as we have black-on-black crime and one black man killing another, you know, if black lives matter then they should matter all the time.
“You should never let somebody get killed. That’s somebody’s son. That’s somebody’s brother. That’s somebody’s friend. So you should always keep that in mind.”
Sherman’s words are a contrast to the hundreds of sports starts that have platforms as large or larger than Sherman’s, but who never have and likely never would stick his or her neck out to speak on such an issue for fear of criticism or marginalization.
“And there’s a lot of dealings with police officers right now. I don’t think all cops are bad,” Sherman continued. “I think there are some great cops out there who do everything in their power to uphold the badge and uphold the honor and protect people out in society. But there are bad cops. And I think that also needs to be addressed. The police officers that we have right now, some of it is being brought to life because we have video cameras; everybody has a camera phone. But these are things that a lot of us has dealt with our whole lives. And I think right now is a perfect time to deal with it. The climate we are in, everybody’s being more accepting.
“So I think the ignorance should stop. We are all human beings. Before we are Black, White, Asian, Polynesian, Latino, we are humans. It’s up to us to stop it.”
Sherman went on to talk about playing inside as the fifth defensive back on obvious passing downs. He said Seahawks coaches asked him only Monday night via a text if he could learn the inside position in time for the opener at St. Louis less than six days and three full practices later.
“I do what I’m coached to do,” he said.
Coach Pete Carroll said he likes the “flexibility” the 6-foot-3 Sherman playing inside gives Seattle’s defense. He had only dabbled in such roaming before, mainly playing the left cornerback spot. Green Bay famously avoided him in the 2014 opener, effectively leaving the Seahawks having to defend only two-thirds of the field. Doing that they held Rodgers to 189 yards passing in their 36-16 win.
Sherman thinks moving around the field and covering slot receivers “changes the dynamic a little bit” for his defense and foes’ offenses.
“It changes the way they have to approach it, the way they have to game plan for it,” he said. “It also changes the way I have to approach it.”
As for off the field, Sherman was asked why he uses his football-star platform to bring societal issues into the NFL realm when so many other high-profile athletes stay silent or non-committal on topics beyond sports, often with lucrative endorsements and images in mind.
“I’m not scared to be judged,” he replied.
“I’m not afraid to be criticized. I’m OK with who I am. I am OK with being human, with being a person and understanding that I do some things great and I make mistakes. I’m OK with that decision. I’m OK with people judging both sides of my character and trying to attack me. I am perfectly fine with that.”
As if on cue, Sherman got criticized almost immediately after he spoke Wednesday.
“I thought you were smarter than that,” said one tweet.
That was one of the printable rebukes on the internet.
“Some people are afraid to deal with that, because you deal with a lot of things when you put yourself out there in that way,” he said. “Whether it’s on the field or off the field you have to deal with the good and the bad that has to do with the spotlight. And I think some people don’t want to deal with that.”
SUNDAY: Seattle (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0), 5:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 710-AM, 97.3-FM