Seattle Seahawk's all-pro defensive back Richard Sherman is arguably the most polarizing player in the NFL. After a stellar defensive play that led to a victory for his team and a spot in the Super Bowl, Sherman notoriously declared in a post game interview, "I'm the best corner[back] in the league. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you going to get." Despite a thorough apology shortly after, Sherman's notoriety was already determined by America.
Viewers instantly reacted on social media, calling Sherman "arrogant" a "thug" and a "disgrace" on Twitter and Facebook. Other professional athletes spoke out as well; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander stated Sherman would get "high and tight" fastballs if he were in the MLB and former NFL coach Tony Dungy called Sherman's words inappropriate and said the player should have "showed a little more class."
On the other hand, Sherman fans defended the player's statement, saying his actions are permissible because of his athletic ability. "[Sherman] has every right to be proud. He's one of the best players in the NFL and he knows it," wrote one fan. Others disregarded it, saying people shouldn't be surprised. "what successful professional athlete doesn't have ego and some attitude?" asks one fan, "It comes with the territory."
Several pastors and Christian bloggers, however, take a different perspective on Richard Sherman. Kelly Boggs, weekly columnist for Baptist Press, says critics should withhold their judgment, whether positive or negative, until informed of all the facts.
"Jesus told us not to judge because He knows our perspectives are severely limited. We rarely, if ever, have enough information to render a proper judgment."
These "facts" include Sherman's impressive rags-to-riches story. The Seahawk's star defender is the son of hardworking, blue collar parents (his father is a trash collector and his mother teaches disabled children in the inner city). He graduated second from his Compton, Calif., high school, which is located in one of the worst school districts in the United States with an impressive 4.2 GPA.
Sherman attended college at the academically demanding Stanford University He graduated from the Palo Alto school with a degree in communication before his NCAA eligibility was up. He had a 3.9 GPA, and spent his final year at Stanford working toward a master's degree.
"While Sherman's history doesn't at all excuse his speech, it does explain his pride," says Pastor Gilbert Stryne of New York City. "He has overcome more obstacles than most people ever will-and has done so honestly and against all odds."
Boggs believes Sherman's comments must be taken in context, reminding readers that 49er's receiver Michael Crabtree had previously provoked the Seahawk's player. Professional football, he says, is intensely demanding both physically and emotionally.
"While Sherman's timing in approaching Crabtree was ill-advised, the evidence suggests he was overly excited when he spoke to the 49er's receiver,"Boggs writes. "When he was snubbed, he reacted -- and that reaction spilled over to the post-game interview. Sherman is known for trash talking. He is not alone. It is simply part of the psychological warfare some players employ in trying to get an edge over an opponent. Most players understand that and do not take it."
Reverend Eric Thompson of Grace Baptist Church in North Carolina says people should accept Sherman's apology and consider their words carefully.
"Sherman himself isn't attempting to justify his actions. He's apologized in a very humble manner. It's ironic that those who are criticizing Sherman for trash-talking are now doing the same thing to him. If we all held to Christ's commandment to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," we would not be so quick to remark."
Sherman's charity, Blanket Coverage, provides school supplies for inner-city kids, ensuring they are equipped with quality materials and updated textbooks.