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Richard Sherman is a success story. Born in Compton, California, he didn't let his violent inner-city neighborhood chew him up. The Seattle Seahawks superstar scored 1400 on the SAT and graduated from high school with a 4.2 grade-point average, which earned him salutatorian status. His crowning achievement was a degree from prestigious Stanford University. During his first two years in the league, Sherman has become the most dominant cornerback.
Unfortunately, the predominantly white sports media have decided it's more important to focus on Sherman's "thuggish" behavior during a postgame interview following his team's victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. Sherman trash-talked his opponent Michael Crabtree, calling him a "sorry-ass receiver." His diatribe blew up the internet and sent sportsmanship purists into seizures.
The Monday after the game, the word "thug" was used 625 times during discussions about Sherman's antics on local TV and radio stations, according to iQ Media, a company that monitors word usage in media by tracking closed captioning.
"The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays," Sherman said. "Because they know."
Sherman is absolutely right. Ignorant pundits automatically assume a young African-American — whether from Compton or Liberty City — showboating his talents is no different from a criminal who jacks cars or sells crack. If he wears dreadlocks, watch out, because he must be in a gang and he'll shoot you dead. Closet racists such as ESPN's Skip Bayliss and Boston sports talk-show hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan (all of whom used the word "thug") create horrible perceptions of outspoken black athletes. They can't comprehend that a Rhodes scholar who gets accepted to a major university can come out of Compton.
The fact is, Sherman is one of the most intelligent African-American athletes playing a gladiator sport like a throwback player. He's a hard-nosed wrecking ball like Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. Sherman has earned the right not to be called a "thug."
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.