Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman pushed back on the media and the public’s view of him as a “thug,” saying “stop trying to label people” and using his own background as a Stanford-educated black man from Compton to illustrate his point.
“I’ve kind of had to be a chameleon of sorts because you walk, I mean, you drive from Compton to Stanford and you’ve got to be able to flip the switch. The culture’s too different to treat them both the same and I think it’s not right to treat them both the same,” Sherman told msnbc's Chris Hayes on Monday, describing his first encounter with Stanford as “culture shock.”
“Where I’m from, there isn’t a lot of culture, a lot of diversity,” Sherman said of Compton, a rough neighborhood in south Los Angeles. “I was kind of shocked [at Stanford]: shocked at the way they’re talking, the conversation, the dialogue.”
Sherman earned a 4.2 GPA at his high school in Compton.
“A kid from Compton who hadn’t seen too much outside the city, to tell you the truth, had to really adjust and really acclimate to that environment,” Sherman said.
Sherman came under fire earlier this month for a passionate post-game interview that he says many misconstrued. “It's as good natured as you can do in a football game,” he said.
“So this is the big debate," Chris Hayes said. "After the last game, after the NFL films tape came out in which you're miked and you make the play you celebrate for a moment and you run up to [49ers wide receiver Michael] Crabtree, and you're like, ‘heck of a game, heck of a game,’ and the big debate in my office and every office is are you taunting him in that moment...is that a good faith ‘hey hell of a game’ or do you realize you're, like, putting it in his face?” Hayes asked Sherman.
“I mean the game is going to end in twenty-two seconds… it's one of those things where the game is gonna be over in twenty-two seconds, if the guy walks to the locker room, I don't get a chance to say good game, so I guess it's as good natured as you can do in a football game. I was going to give the guy a handshake before the season's over,” Sherman said.
Sherman said he was surprised when Crabtree then swatted at his helmet.
“I mean, if he didn't want to shake, all he had to do was just wave it off and I would have turned around and celebrated with my teammates you know, so I was a little surprised by the push,” Sherman said.
Seconds later, he joined Fox’s Erin Andrews for a post-game report.
“Well, I’m the best corner in the game!” Sherman said. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get.”
“Don’t you ever talk about me!” he said to the camera. Pressed by Andrews to name who was talking about him, Sherman said “Crabtree! Don’t you open your mouth about the best! Or I’m going to shut it for you real quick!”
Asked by Hayes what he thinks watching the interview clip, Sherman said, “It looks fine to me. I don’t think too much of it. A big play was made; you’re going to get a big reaction.”
The “big reaction” that ensued included the labeling of Sherman as a “thug” – a word that was uttered 625 times on TV the day after the game.
"Webster's definition of [a thug] is a criminal,” Sherman said. “And I'm far from a criminal, you can check my record, it's pretty clean. And I think people confuse, with the way they use it...but I think people are trying to use it, like I said before, as a substitute for the n-word. It's an accepted way to say it."
Sherman's critics included Senator John McCain, who called him “that loudmouth from Seattle.”
“I don't see it that way,” Sherman said, “but I'm sure he's said worse than that.”
“His opinion is what it is and he's entitled to it,” Sherman said. “I got caught up in the moment. I'm sure he's gotten caught up in the moment but if everybody labeled him off of a sound bite, then I’m sure everybody’d have a different view of him.”