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Stanford Man: Richard Sherman and the Thug Athlete Narrative

Stanford Man Richard Sherman and the Thug Athlete Narrative


Sherman could have turned into a very similar Sherman and made a very similar Sherman game-saving play and followed it up with a braggadocio-filled Sherman postgame interview, and not have gone to Stanford University.

And then what? Had he gone to the University of Miami, would he be just another link in the chain of thug athletes from the U? Probably. What if he went to a Historically Black College, like Morehouse or Howard? Or what about a junior college? Or what about Harvard?

All of these things would unfairly impact the thug narrative of Richard Sherman. And that’s unfortunate, because the “He went to Stanford” card was long used as a way to get people off his back. And while the intentions were good, and helped shift some of the conversation about him back in his favor, it shouldn’t be a primary argument when given the all-too-common task of proving someone isn’t a thug. If anything, it’s harmful logic. Because the next Richard Sherman may not have attended Stanford. So what then?

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Warriors connection:

Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala never explicitly said he was talking about Richard Sherman, but based on the time stamps and the reality of not being born yesterday, it’s fair to assume these Iguodala subtweets are about Richard Sherman. To a degree, they echo Chris Rock’s “Black People vs. Niggas” bit and Chappelle’s Clayton Bigsby skit. But Iguodala is no cultural critic nor master satirist. He’s a peer. A fellow athlete — a fellow black male athlete — and because of that, his tweets seemed less like a joke and more like an honest opinion. They suggest Richard Sherman is a disruption to progress. Hisprogress. It highlights a notion — an old, classist racial tactic — of “them vs. us.” The idea of separating the thugs (the Shermans) from the rest.

This separation tactic is easily accomplished within white America: one quick use of the phrase “white trash” and a distinction is clear, consequence-free. And because of it, a group like the Duck Dynasty boys have been made to seem like members of a different race, a different species. Because in this equation, they aren’t white. They’re white trash.

The idea of a famous white person embarrassing or tarnishing the reputation of the entire race is a bewildering concept to even consider. But it’s commonplace when an individual from any minority group does something that could be considered “uncouth.” And when that happens, some embrace the individual and others do anything in their power to dissociate. Or to label that person an anomaly.


But not everyone was embarrassed, or ashamed, or disgusted by Sherman’s actions. Many applauded him, and even more came to his defense, rallying against the critiques of his character. And one of those disarming tactics, as noted above, became stating that Sherman is a graduate of Stanford University.