Is 'Thug' the New N-Word

By Albert Lin


Seattle Seahawks football player Richard Sherman drew unwanted attention to himself on Sunday after an emotionaland some say unnecessarydisplay during a postgame interview.

Now he is turning the tables on his critics. On Wednesday, he responded to the many people who called him a thug for his behavior, saying, “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 everyone else said the N-word and they said ‘Thug’ and they’re like, ‘Ah, that’s fine.’ That’s where it kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing.”

In the interview, on the field immediately after he made a game-saving deflection that sent his team to the Super Bowl, Sherman said this to FOX’s Erin Andrews: “I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like [San Francisco 49er Michael] Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me! Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!”

On Wednesday, Sherman chose to ignore the many people who in fact used the N-word and instead only addressed those who called him a thugand there were a lot, even in the mainstream media. Based on closed captioning, iQ Media counted 625 mentions of “thug” on Monday across all media markets, with the simulcast of a Boston sports-radio talk show recording 12 thugs in a two-minute span.

“What’s the definition of a thug really” Sherman said, referencing a recent National Hockey League game that featured a fight during the opening faceoff. “Maybe I’m talking loudly and doing something I’m not supposed to. But I’m not … There was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and said, ‘Oh, man. I’m the thug What’s going on here'”

In fact, a microphone on Sherman revealed that after time expired, he ran up to Crabtree, said, “Hell of a game, hell of a game,” and tried to shake Crabtree’s hand. Crabtree shoved him in the helmet before an official escorted Sherman away.

A Stanford graduate, Sherman says he has constantly had to deal with the preconceived notions people have of him as a Black man who grew up in Compton, Calif. Despite attending a high school in a district with a 57 percent graduation rate, Sherman finished with a 4.2 grade-point average and was class salutatorian, earning a scholarship to one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. He also grew up idolizing boxer Muhammad Ali, who was not one to shy away from a camera, so perhaps it is no surprise that Sherman displays a healthy bit of bravado.

“I know some thugs, and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug,” Sherman said. “I’ve fought that my whole life, just coming from where I’m coming from. Just because you hear Compton, you hear Watts, you hear cities like that, you just think, ‘Thug, he’s a gangster, he’s this, that and the other,’ and then you hear Stanford, and they’re like, ‘Oh, man, that doesn’t even make sense, that’s an oxymoron.’ You fight it for so long, and to have it come back up and people start to use it again, it’s really frustrating.”

‘We Haven’t Come as Far as I Thought’

In a Tuesday interview with CNN that aired on Friday, Sherman was more introspective, acknowledging that he may have crossed a line. “I probably shouldn’t have attacked another person,” he said. “You know, I don’t mean to attack [Crabtree]. And that was immature and I probably shouldn’t have done that. I regret doing that.”

He also said his piece about the comments coming from the less civilized corners of the Internet.

“It was really mind-boggling the way the world reacted,” Sherman said. “I can’t say the world, I don’t want to generalize people like that because there are a lot of great people who didn’t react that way. But for the people who did react that way and throw the racial slurs and things like that out there, it was really sad. Especially that close to Martin Luther King Day.

“I learned we haven’t come as far as I thought we had. I thought society had moved past that.”

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