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Re: Richard Sherman and How We Talk About Others: by, Grant Walsh

imagesAs a sports fan, I loved the 49ers/Seahawks game. Two teams who have become the biggest of rivals over the past few years who play with unencumbered fierceness and passion. Two teams so equally matched and competitive. Also two teams with unique and flamboyant personalities. So, full disclosure… when Richard Sherman got on TV after the game and went on a little tirade, it actually made me laugh. I thought it was funny. It just didn’t bother me all that much. Apparently, many disagreed and took their opinions to social media. I wasn’t too surprised by this, but what people said about Sherman did surprise me a little.

I witnessed people I respect and many sports fans resort to character slurs and condemnations. I heard personal attacks on Sherman. I was a bit taken back.

But I paused and thought: maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am the crazy one for not attacking Sherman for his display. I let what I saw and heard simmer for a while before engaging the issue. I wanted to see where people’s heads were at first. After all, I have a pretty checkered history of liking sports’ “bad” boys myself and acknowledge I might be biased. And I am also a 20-year sports fan and have seen SO much undesirable behavior and words from athletes that I was thinking maybe I have simply built up a tolerance to it all. I mean my favorite sports player in the 90’s (along with millions of other Americans), Michael Jordan, is considered the worst trash talker in the history of the NBA by his peers. From reports from people who played against him, he literally talked trash all the time. All. The. Time.  But trash talking didn’t start or end with MJ – we all know that Bo Jackson knows everything from baseball to football and everything in between. Usain Bolt is fast and is proud of it. Reggie Miller knows when you are choking and makes sure you know it too. Jim McMahon is wonderful, just ask him. Muhammad Ali didn’t think too highly of his opponents  – to name a few high-profile examples. I have seen self-glorifying sports ads on TV countless times and have watched taunting take all forms possible on and off the field. So what was different this time to invoke so many responses? That is what I am trying to figure out. Here was my thought process….

During the Panthers/49ers game, Anquan Boldin couldn’t stop talking trash and glorifying his play. He did this continually throughout the game, barking and yelping after every big catch – so much so that it led commentator Troy Aikman to specifically point it out on air. Aikman went on to acknowledge, on national TV in front of everyone, that every 49ers game he did this season included Boldin acting this way and that something needs to change. Yet I did not see even ONE person blast Anquan Boldin’s character on social media. Not one.

Likewise, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (who is also a devout and authentic follower of Jesus), is known for his own form of self-glorification when he kisses his bicep after every TD run. But he took it one step further in the same 49ers/Panthers game. After scoring a huge TV, Kaepernick decided to perform Cam Newton’s (the opposing QB’s) TD celebration (the Superman) before proceeding to do his normal TD celebration of the bicep kiss (clearly showing up and taunting the opposing QB).  Guess how many people took Kaepernick to task on social media? You guessed it. Zero.

In fact, San Francisco led the league in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 2013. So there is that.

Some might contend, as I overheard, that what Sherman did and does do is much different than everyone else. But is it really? Is there really much difference between a guy who makes a Super Bowl saving play who then gets on the mic and says “he is the best” and a guy who uses his opponents TD celebration and  then kisses his biceps after a TD? Or a guy who needs to dance, scream, and shout at opposing players every time he gets a first down? Or a coach who hates another coach so much he wont shake his hand after a game?  I personally don’t think so.

But let’s continue to be clear here. I am only bringing up two recent displays of self-glorification and/or taunting in sports. There are literally countless others. Thousands of examples. Tens of thousands. Even from some of my favorite players. Baseball players watching their HR’s, defensive backs dancing their way to the end zone after a pick, defensive lineman sacking a QB and dancing around like a kid, hockey players resorting to brawling, basketball players adding some shirt snaps after making a 3-pointer or a sick dunk, a coach unwilling to shake the hand of an opposing coach after a loss… but why stick to just players and coaches? How about fans that applaud and cheer when an opposing player lies in agony on the turf, or when they boo when an opposing player is slow to get off the field after an injury, or fans who assassinate the character of players they don’t even know – in public. Unsportsmanlike conduct is all around us.

But, what is the proper response – especially for Christians? This is what I think.

Don’t attack the person.  When did it become ok to blast people’s character, their identity, on social media? What happened to “hate the sin, love the sinner”? Instead of remarking about how Sherman messed up, I heard strong and condemning adjectives describing who he is as a person. I am so thankful that every time I mess up (which is of course routinely) that I am not defined by those actions and then talked about on Twitter. If we consistently talked about others the way some folks talked about Sherman, we would have a non-stop cycle of judgment.  You are bigger than your mistakes, even character flaws (real or perceived) – Gospel 101.

Go with grace. Grace is hard, isn’t it? It is for me. I would much rather draw (subjective) lines in the sand, point out flaws of others instead of my own, and to draw character conclusions about people if I think they deserve it. However, grace does not do that. One of the biggest lessons I have been learning over the past several years (particularly by living overseas and in other cultures) is that none of us is any better than anyone else. We are all the same. Different vices? Sure. Different struggles? You bet. Different sin issues on display? Of course. But the human condition is the same for all of us – we all war against ourselves and the flesh. So what gives me moral high ground to attack someone else’s character while forgetting my own lack of character? The answer is there is none. We leave Sherman alone (in terms of judging his character) because we need grace just as much as he does. Believe me, I am still learning this truth too.

One of my friends posted a response by Tony Dungy regarding Sherman. To me, it was a much better example of grace and addressing the behavior instead of attacking character. Dungy never called Sherman names or made broad generalizations about who he is. He only said he wouldn’t himself do something like that and addressed his actions – not his identity. He even spoke with a posture of kindness and gentleness.

Sherman’s teammate and follower of Jesus, Russell Wilson, took a similar road as Dungy and instead of focusing on how Sherman messed up and attack his character – talked about positives and moving forward and that Sherman simply “made a mistake.”

Here is to grace. May we know and embrace more – myself included!

2 Comments on "Re: Richard Sherman and How We Talk About Others: by, Grant Walsh"

  1. Don Waltmire says:

    Proverbs 8:10-11 “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”

    Seek wisdom and understanding, for it is better than precious jewels; ask God for the grace to be released from sports addictions and all that they embody.
    “Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good.” Rom. 12:9
    “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom. 12:2

    We are to hate the things that God hates., while enjoying the good things that God created for us to enjoy. Pprofessional sports and the entertainment industry are NOT the things that God gave us to enjoy in this life and they are certainly not “gifts” from God!
    They are those “things of the world” that God tells us to stay far away from!

    God tells us
    “Love not the world, nor the things of the world, for the world passeth away.”
    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
    “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous”
    God tells us “If you love Me, keep My Commandments”
    The 4th Commandment tells us to keep His Sabbath Day holy. These Sabbath day “games” are a violation of God’s commandment let alone all the other sinful things that go on during these games.

    People certainly are free to do whatever they choose in life, but remember this, God will judge every work of man on that last day, all will give an account either to life everlasting, or to their utter destruction – all those found to have this worldliness in their heart testifying that the love of God is not there, He will then say unto them “Depart from Me, I never knew you, depart from Me you workers of iniquity”
    “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:5-10

    We who are His are in this world, but not of this world.
    “Come out of her my people” saith the Lord!

    Time is short…Very short!
    “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11

  2. My brother-in-law (Gary Helms) sent me here after he read my post on FB. You said it much, much more eloquently than I did and I really appreciate it! Here’s my (flawed) response to a Grantland post, if you are interested. Thanks again for this! -Darian A. Carson

    I am guilty of this same thing and I am sorry.

    Please indulge me the long story: I saw the first beats commercial with Kevin Garnet and by the end of it I was in tears (I’m such a girl!) and I wanted to run right out and buy beats noise canceling headphones! I love Kevin Garnet!

    Then I saw the second beats commercial with Colin Kaepernick and I was torn–I think Kap looks like a thug and I said that out loud to my husband. [To me, thug doesn’t mean the n word–it means a gangster who stands out on the street corner selling drugs to children–that could be a white guy, a hispanic guy, black guy and so on.]

    I still liked the headphones because I have great respect for KG, but how could they put Kap in a commercial–he is obviously a thug? Like I said, I was torn. Then I read more about Kaepernick: he is adopted, he’s just out of college, he is a Christian (instant guilt because I *say* I am one too), he has a pet turtle (!!), and he has an awesome touchdown celebration. I saw him play a few games and he is amazing! I feel bad for pre-judging him based on the tattoos and the swagger. It made me sad that the angry people in Kaepernick’s beats commercial were dressed like Seahawks fans (because I call myself one of those too). So, as long as he isn’t playing against the Seahawks, I will cheer for Colin Kaepernick.

    And finally the Richard Sherman beats commercial came out just before the championship game. I LOVE IT–don’t get me started on Richard Sherman! I can’t stop spewing praise! Just like he couldn’t help his rant that started all this discussion.

    When I try to defend Richard Sherman to people who have written him off as arrogant or as a thug it is nearly impossible. I wish they could read more of the good things about him (like that he grew up in Compton and graduated from Stanford, that his work ethic comes from his dad who is a sanitation worker in LA, etc) and come around just like I did with Kaepernick.

    I really want beats headphones now and I can enjoy all of the very clever commercials. Because I am a girl I cannot sing along “I’m the man.” so instead I sing (for all three commercials!) “I’m a fan, I’m a fan, I’m a fan”.

    Go Hawks!

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