Richard Sherman, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, found himself trending almost immediately after their game against the 49ers on Sunday night when he vented on camera about Michael Crabtree to Erin Andrews. Since then, he's been talked about all around the web and referred to as a "thug" for his outburst. Now, he's spoken up about the use of the word and what it really means.
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman said on Sunday after he was asked about the pass he blocked from Crabtree. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that is the result you are going to get. Don't you ever talk about me. [...] Crabtree. Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you really quick."
The outburst visibly shocked Erin Andrews and subsequently lit up Facebook and Twitter, where many viewers began throwing the word around.
"The only reason it bothers me," Sherman said during a press conference this week, "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 then they say 'thug' and they're like 'oh, that's fine,'" he said during a press conference earlier this week.
Sherman's words have sparked a debate about whether or not the term has a double meaning and why it's acceptable to use it in reference to a black man.
"Thug" might have once described people actually deserving of the term—Wall Street swindlers or cops who harass and kill citizens with impunity. But now it's mostly deployed to attack the character of black Americans, many of whom have done nothing wrong but be offensive to a white person's sensibilities, wrote Cord Jefferson of Gawker.
According to Deadspin, the word "thug" was used 625 times on television on Monday; the word made the rounds across the web, too, especially on Twitter, where #RichardSherman was trending almost from the moment he began his rant after the game.
While Sherman admits that he got loud during his vent, he also explains the reason for his outburst in an op-ed piece for Sports Illustrated, in which he says his issues with Crabtree go further than just Sunday night's events. Football viewers only saw a small part of his frustration.
"Erin Andrews interviewed me after the game and I yelled what was obvious: If you put a subpar player across from a great one, most of the time you’re going to get one result. As far as Crabtree being a top-20 NFL receiver, you’d have a hard time making that argument to me. There are a lot of receivers playing good ball out there, and Josh Gordon needed 14 games to produce almost double what Crabtree can do in a full season. And Gordon had Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell playing quarterback," he wrote. "But that’s not why I don’t like the man. It goes back to something he said to me this offseason in Arizona, but you’d have to ask him about that. A lot of what I said to Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don’t like him."