Turns out Richard Sherman is a good defender off-the-field as well.
In a new column posted to The MMQB today, the controversial Seattle Seahawks cornerback posted a lengthy and well-reasoned defense of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week shortly after a NJ.com report was published that claimed Jackson had associations with reputed gang members.
“I’m not going to tell you that DeSean Jackson isn’t in a gang, because I can’t say unequivocally that he isn’t,” Sherman’s column begins. “I can’t tell you whether his friends have done the things police have accused them of doing, because I wasn’t there...I can only tell you that I believe him to be a good person, and if you think, say or write otherwise without knowing the man, you’re in the wrong.”
Sherman and Jackson played elementary school baseball together in the Los Angeles area, and according to Sherman Jackson’s father, Bill, “picked me up from elementary school 30 minutes away from his home for practice and games because my parents both worked and didn’t finish until later.”
“Bill was a great coach, and a great man,” Sherman says. But after his death from pancreatic cancer in 2009, Jackson began drifting towards those who supported him through his hard time.
“When a tragic event like that happens, the people who are around are the people who are around, and they were there for him,” Sherman writes.
The Watts-born player then addresses the issues facing athletes like himself and Jackson, whose “gang ties” often stem from the neighborhoods they were born into.
“I can’t change who I grew up with, but what I can do is try to educate them on the right way of doing things, help them when they need it, and try to keep them out of trouble,” Sherman says.
He also calls out the Eagles organization for cutting Jackson during the same offseason in which they resigned another receiver, Riley Cooper, who was caught on video at a concert last year yelling “I will fight every n—– here.”
“Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn,” Sherman observes. Referring to last month’s DUI arrest of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, Sherman writes, “Nobody suggested [Irsay] had “ties” to drug trafficking, even though he was caught driving with controlled substances (prescription pills) and $29,000 in cash to do who-knows-what with,” Sherman notes.
The column, like many of his others, touches on a thorny issue for both the NFL and society as a whole: Our perceptions of the young African-American men that make up the majority of the league. Certain prejudices spring up whenever we discover a player grew up in a place like South Central L.A. or other inner-city neighborhoods. For instance, would Sherman have been labeled a “thug” for his rant against Michael Crabtree if he wasn’t a black man raised in Watts?
Ultimately, no one outside of the Eagles front-office really knows what extent the report about Jackson’s alleged “gang ties” played in his release from the team. His contract was hefty and his attitude, at times, was poor. Still, if Jackson’s ownership of a gangsta rap label troubles you, keep these words by Sherman in mind:
“If only all record label owners were held to this standard, somebody might realize that Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg weren’t the bosses behind NWA. Jim Irsay lookalikes in suits were.”