Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Richard Sherman


Another dreadful Monday in the new year of 2014.

Or is it?

This day, being the third Monday in January marks the observed birthday of the late Martin Luther King Jr. Many people recognize him for his renowned speech and his advocacy for equal rights, but why is it that discrimination is still present in our society today?

The actions surrounding the NFC championship game last night vividly demonstrate why these actions still persist in a society that strives for equality.

Following the game, a black man with long dreadlocks chose to pat an opposing player on the buttocks while taunting him after making the game-sealing play to advance to the Super Bowl. This has become quite the story among media outside of the sports world, but why?

This story has become relevant because an African American athlete decided to bluntly rant after the game in a not so eloquent manner about the disrespect the opposing team displayed to him. He followed up these remarks by proclaiming himself the “best” and bringing the attention to himself in a selfish manner. The reporter at the time, Erin Andrews, seemed to be flustered and taken back by the violent post game tirade, and many viewed her actions as that of fear and disgust.

These actions and implications have turned this football issue into a matter of race.

The tirade by Sherman was classless, egotistical, conceited, and utterly shameful. But this fact should not be accompanied by the color of his skin. An array of players in professional sports choose to be outlandish, passionate, and boisterous while on the field, whether that be MLB players AJ Pierzynski and Brian Wilson, former NBA player Rick Barry, former Tennis player John McEnroe, or fellow NFL player Aaron Rodgers. The parallel between each of these athletes you ask?

They all have white skin.

What does this show? No matter the color of your skin, no matter your level of intelligence, no matter the era in which you played, there will always be players who express their passion for the game in a controversial manner. What this does not mean is that if a player becomes selfish for a moment, it does not make him a selfish player, an undesirable teammate, or an inadequate human being.

“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

This quotation by Dr. King helps show how far America still has to go in reaching true equality amongst everyone, no matter his or her skin color. And while this specific behavior by Richard Sherman is not desirable, Dr. King had advocated for a society in which any man of color could have the freedom to express himself without the color of his skin becoming a disruption.

So, on a day in which we celebrate civil rights, and the life of a man who advocated for freedom, do not allow yourself to fall victim to the mainstream media and its villainous portrayal of Richard Sherman. Know that sports, while often a commonplace for many people, can yield undesirable yet passionate behavior of which would not occur outside the lines.

As Dr. King would say, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair”, but rather, judge a man by his character alone, not by the color of his skin.

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About The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project is a hub for teaching, research, and service related to sport media. The Project benefits students and faculty at Bowling Green State University, and offers outreach and media consulting to area and regional groups that work with student-athletes. Through collaborative efforts of the Sport Management program and the School of Media and Communication, BGSU students have the opportunity to learn such skills as sports writing, reporting, broadcasting, announcing, public relations, media relations, communication management and production. Faculty and other scholars have access to resources about the commercial and sociological aspects of sport.

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