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Sherman’s March to the Superbowl…

Richard Sherman.

I bet you had no clue who he was before last Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.  I certainly didn’t. I think he would rather be remembered for this….

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than the rant he gave after the game to Erin Andrews of Fox and with reporters in post game interviews.

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In the now infamous rant heard round the world, he insulted receiver Michael Crabtree from the 49ers.

So why is this such a big deal?

Well, as a result of his comments, he received a ton of backlash, some of it racist in content.  The nicest of the tweets and posts  called him a thug, and went downhill from there to include racial slurs. Some even called for him to be shot in the head, calling him a disrespectful (n word).

What???

Here is a reminder that clearly America is not past race.  The bottom line is this.  Did he act inappropriately? This was not a rant at an art gallery opening, or at Wimbledon.  This was football. Plain and simple.  The sport where aggression is rewarded, and the hardest hits put points on the scoreboard.  Why is he expected to act like he is in Sunday service? Other players have said inappropriate things in the moment of victory, why is this somehow an indictment of all people of color?

Newsflash: Richard Sherman graduated from Stanford at the top of his class.  He is highly educated.  He was not raised in the hood. He volunteers his time with needy children.

Take a look at the interview Sherman gave to CNN’s Unguarded. Is this the portrait of a thug? Richard Sherman on CNN

And what about free speech? I thought getting shot for having a different opinion was a premise for repressed countries. Apparently some Americans have the same thought patterns as a dictator. This also brings to mind the Duck Dynasty saga. He said nasty things about gays (that we’re not direct quotes from the Bible FYI), and African Americans (no, we were not happier getting lynched during Jim Crow), and no one tweeted that he should be shot in the head. On the contrary, many people backed his free speech rights. So why is Sherman any different? He didn’t insult Crabtree’s mother. He didn’t burn the flag. The backlash is WAY out of proportion to what he said…and the racist comments are just vile.

Was I thrilled about what he said? No.  But I also was mad that the 49ers lost. If I was a Seahawks fan, I probably would have felt differently about his statements.

Should he have conducted himself better? Of course, there is always room for improvement.  He could have been more gracious in victory. But we can’t expect players to beat each other up on the field, and seconds later, act like they are in a Grey Poupon  commercial.

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“Excuse me sir, do you have any Grey Poupon?”

Regardless, I am still #OmahaOmaha Broncos Nation for Superbowl Sunday. Richard Sherman will be fine, he may even get a bunch of endorsements out of this whole experience.

But it is still disturbing to realize that in 2014, race is very much a factor, and can erupt at any time.

M.

 

Richie Incognito: Hazing, Bullying or Hate Crime?

Richie Incognito: Hazing, Bullying or Hate Crime?

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Richie Incognito is not so incognito these days. Instead of receiving attention for his plays on the field, his career is possibly over due to his bullying of a teammate. Incognito is alleged to have made racist comments to Jonathan Martin, a fellow teammate on the Miami Dolphins, and bullying him to the point that Martin left the team. Ironically, Incognito appeared in a Dolphins public service announcement that is played at home games, asking fans to behave in a “civilized” manner, and not be unruly during games. 

It seems crazy. Martin is 6’5”, 312 pounds, and Incognito is 6’3”, 319 pounds. One would think the two players, trained to hit hard on the field, would just fight it out in the locker room and call it a day. However, it went deeper than that. Incognito was part of a group of veteran players, who hazed Martin, including forcing him to pay for them to go on a trip to Vegas, to a tune of $25,000. They played childish pranks on him, such as inviting him to sit with the group for a meal, then getting up and leaving him alone when he sat down at the table.

And then there were the racial comments. Incognito, who is white, called Martin “half a n—“, (Martin is biracial) and threatened his family. Not to mention the ultimate sin…talking about Martin’s mother. These threats were made in voicemails as well as text messages. As a result, now there is even talk of charging Incognito with a federal hate crime. Under federal statutes resulting from the Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful to intimidate, or threaten someone because of their race and participation in a protected activity (such as voting, participation in a state or federally funded program).

Keep in mind, we watch football for fun; for the players, it’s their workplace. The same workplace rules apply in football as compared to any other field of work. However, the NFL workplace is a very different animal. The aspect that is making this case unique is that of the “locker room” culture.  Men are encouraged to be hard on each other emotionally, whack each other’s backsides with towels, and be macho guys.  As fans, we admire as well as reward their toughness on the field; however, there is no way to force players to turn that toughness off when they exit the field.

Also remember that Jonathan Martin is a rookie, having joined the team in the 2012 NFL draft from Stanford University.  He’s young (age 24), at a new job, and is now being pushed around by veteran teammates. He wants to fit in; but how much is enough? Martin was viewed as vulnerable by the senior players, as well as possibly the coaching staff. Clearly, Martin took all he could until he suffered an emotional breakdown. No one wants to be harassed at work. Bullying turns a dream job into a living nightmare.

I doubt Richie Incognito will be federally prosecuted; unless the Dolphins receive state or federal funding, it will be a stretch to find a link that would give Martin protection under the federal hate crime statutes. Secondly, there may be too much professional backlash for Martin, who has been traumatized to the point of taking a break from football and going to his home city for therapy. Without a cooperative victim, the case would be short lived. Lastly, from the tone of the transcripts released of the texts/voice messages, it may be difficult to show that the statements were more than Incognito being an obnoxious bully. There may be an argument to be made for some sort of stalking charge; but again, it would be weak at best.  New reports have surfaced that the Dolphins coaching staff may have egged Incognito on, encouraging him to “toughen Martin up”. If that is the case, there may be a viable civil lawsuit. Coaches need to look at what kind of environment they are creating, and act accordingly.

Should Incognito be prosecuted? No.

Fired? Absolutely.

Blacklisted from NFL? Everyone deserves a second chance. If he issues an apology, comes out publicly against racism and bullying, and stops acting like an idiot, there may be some redemption in a season or two. His PR agent has a lot of work in the years ahead.

 

Melba Pearson is an attorney, writer, speaker, wife and Resident Legal Diva. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.