Last week, outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman wrote a piece for mmqb.si.com about his childhood friend DeSean Jackson. Jackson, who was cut from the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago and signed by the rival Washington Redskins, has been facing questioning about his possible gang ties to the Crips in Los Angeles.
Sherman is an incredibly smart person. Aside from getting a 3.9 GPA at Stanford while dealing with the rigorous demands of his schedule, Sherman’s spoken and written takes on our society are extremely cerebral and insightful. His postgame interview with Erin Andrews after the NFC Championship game is what most will associate him with, and I don’t have a problem with that. After all, that type of interview does, to a degree, explain who Sherman is — a man whose confidence, or perhaps arrogance, drives everything he does and tends to spill over once in a while.
I also remember Sherman for two other instances surrounding the NFC Championship Game that many will forget. Sherman wrote another MMQB piece that was published the next morning, and he also spoke at a press conference early the following week, mainly about the postgame interview that had by then gone viral. In both the column and the press conference, Sherman’s opinions on many issues — specifically on how fans and media view athletes — showed just how perceptive he is, and his comments were something to which every sports fan should listen.
As we did then, we should listen now to everything he wrote in his recent piece on Jackson. Sherman rightfully criticized the popular idea among the media and fans that players should cut ties with old friends who engage in unsavory activity.
I completely agree with Sherman, as I’ve always resented the idea that a player should automatically forget about those from his or her past. So some professional athletes grow up in rough circumstances; in fact, those environments and a fear of failure often drive them to rise up and succeed. Someone who comes from such a background will likely have a close group of friends that has always been there for them, back from before the player was making millions.
But suddenly, when you become a professional athlete, you’re supposed to forget about your friends because of their questionable decisions, despite all of the love and support they’ve shown you. Just because a professional sports team and its fans want your services, you are supposed to cut ties with the few guys on this planet who would have taken a bullet for you when nobody knew your name.
Sherman made this point excellently, bringing it home with a particularly profound line from his piece: “Should I give up on everybody out of fear of being dirtied by the media? Sorry, but I was born in this dirt.”
Although Sherman articulated his argument extremely well there’s actually one part that I think he missed. If you’re watching any type of coverage of the NFL, you probably won’t have to wait more than five minutes to hear the phrase, “It’s just business.” Whether it’s the release of a fan-favorite, a holdout or a heartbreaking trade, this phrase runs rampant when talking about the league. Let’s bring that mindset to what Sherman wrote.
Since we know that the NFL is a business, we know that every owner and coach makes player transactions for financial reasons. Sure, an organization can claim to treat all of its players like family and many of them truthfully do. But at its core, the player-team relationship is a business one. There’s no denying that.
Yet, when a professional athlete from a rough background becomes a member of an organization for business reasons, he is supposed to break off all contact with the few people who actually care about that player for personal reasons. The few who don’t view him simply as an asset.
There’s a reason that many Eagles fans will boo Jackson when he plays in Philadelphia next year, only one season after loving him to death. It’s because they didn’t care about DeSean Jackson the person; they cared about DeSean Jackson the Eagle. The people from his past, however questionable their decisions may be, actually do. But he’s supposed to forget about them simply because a lot of people watch him on Sundays?
Of course, there are times when friends go too far and someone like DeSean Jackson or Richard Sherman has to cut them off. That’s all true, and Sherman spoke to that in his MMQB piece. But the overall idea that a player needs to stop associating with loyal friends because of a business-minded team and fan base is one that has never made sense. I’m glad that Richard Sherman feels the same way.
Tom Hoff is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. Down to the Wire appears every Friday.