Deadspin's Greg Howard published a piece on the Richard Sherman debacle. The lede:
When you're a public figure, there are rules. Here's one: A public personality can be black, talented, or arrogant, but he can't be any more than two of these traits at a time. It's why antics and soundbites from guys like Brett Favre, Johnny Football and Bryce Harper seem almost hyper-American, capable of capturing the country's imagination, but black superstars like Sherman, Floyd Mayweather, and Cam Newton are seen as polarizing, as selfish, as glory boys, as distasteful and perhaps offensive. It's why we recoil at Kanye West's rants, like when West, one of the greatest musical minds of our generation, had the audacity to publicly declare himself a genius (was this up for debate?), and partly why, over the six years of Barack Obama's presidency, a noisy, obstreperous wing of the GOP has seemed perpetually on the cusp of calling him "uppity." Barry Bonds at his peak was black, talented, and arrogant; he was a problem for America. Joe Louis was black, talented, and at least outwardly humble; he was "a credit to his race, the human race," as Jimmy Cannon once wrote.
All this is based on the common, very American belief that black males must know their place, and more tellingly, that their place is somewhere different than that of whites. It's been etched into our cultural fabric that to act as anything but a loud, yet harmless buffoon or an immensely powerful, yet humble servant is overstepping. It's uppity. It is, as Fox Sports's Kayla Knapp tweeted last night, petrifying.
No offense, but white Americans have always had this pathological fear of brash, outgoing, confident and yes, even arrogant black men and women, with the nexus of that fear being that such a Negro would never allow any white under any capacity to have authority or control over him. It's one of the world's oldest power plays - keeping those coloreds under control so they don't get any ideas and revolt.
Humility is always a desired trait for any athlete as far as most people are concerned, but that desire's taken to a whole new level when it comes to black athletes. To avoid threatening and pissing off white spectators and sponsors, black athletes of old had to play the humble, almost contrite role. Today's athletes don't have to worry much about pissing off anyone, but white mainstream culture still gets upset over black athletes - or anyone else who happens to be black and famous - engaged in liberal amounts of braggadocio.
In the case of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, what we have here is a big, brash energetic Negro scaring a poor white woman half to death with his arrogance and over-exuberance. Nevermind Erin herself reportedly said she wasn't scared - this big buck spooked this delicate white flower and he has to pay. Somehow. So he pays in the rough and tumble world of popular opinion, where any recliner-surfing bigot can call Sherman a "monkey" and a "nigger" many times over while longing for the day Peyton Manning rises up and puts him in his place on the gridiron.
Not that it should bother Sherman any. Thanks to the whirlwinds of controversy, his name is a household name now, plus he's shown himself to be a brilliant player who can also rattle his opponents with a lot of strategically placed shit talk. His name's blown up on Twitter, Facebook and every other social media outlet imaginable.
Inevitably, you get a certain segment of blacks who are also scared shitless of the talented, arrogant and black, but for a different reason. These are the same sort of folks who, countless lifetimes ago, would have been scared shitless of the rogue black buck getting the rest of the slavefolk in trouble. Cue Andre Iguodala's response:
We just got set back 500 years...
— Andre Iguodala (@andre) January 20, 2014
Here's the thing, Andre - no person's behavior sets back an entire group. It can't be done. You don't see white Americans complaining how the antics of their redneck, dudebro or douchebag counterparts somehow sets all of white America back to the age of the pilgrims. It's a stupid thing that needs to die a well-deserved death.
But it's something that many successful blacks do anyway, because they're scared shitless of how the Richard Shermans of the world will make them look to the white guys and ladies who give them interviews, sign their paychecks and have meetings with. That's also a stupid thing that needs to die a well-deserved death, but that's not gonna happen anytime soon.
Of course, Sherman had to walk back the braggadocio and assume a more contrite perspective, perhaps as a PR-directed move to quench the flames of controversy. He didn't have to do this and he shouldn't have.