Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Richard Sherman expects more players around the NFL to speak up about racial issues

Jun 22, 2020 at 8:51 AM--

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was part of a Los Angeles Times panel, which also consisted of Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, and communist LZ Granderson.

Sherman told the story of his time in 2017 when the protesting during the national anthem was spreading across the league following controversial words by President Trump. Sherman was with the Seattle Seahawks at the time. He remembers his coach at the time, Pete Carroll, stopping them before a game against the Tennessee Titans, and asked if they wanted to do something as a team.

They did not.

Sherman remembers some players speaking up, wanting to show support, but being worried about what their families might say or how any action might be perceived.

Obviously, things are different now. Racism and social injustice have jumped to the forefront of today's issues, and the country is much more understanding of the problems that plague our nation.

Sherman also discussed the challenges of growing up Black in America. They are challenges that many don't share, and the cornerback, like so many others, had to be taught how to alter the perceptions of those who would be quick to judge someone based on the color of their skin.

"We learn how to deal with police," Sherman said during the panel, "how to deal with authority figures, how to not look intimidating, how to not be the angry Black man, how to be calm. Because those are things you need to be able to maneuver in this world as a Black man. If I'm a white suburban kid, I don't have to learn how to deal with cops and keep my hands on the steering wheel, no quick movements, sometimes put your hands out the window to make sure that you're not threatening. If anybody runs up on you, try to not seem confrontational. Your parents teach you those things."

Things didn't change for Sherman when he was in college at Stanford University, a prestigious college situated just west of Levi's Stadium.

"Even in college, you have people walking by you grabbing their purse," Sherman explained. "Because if they don't know who you are, if you're not wearing athletic gear, then you're just an intimidating Black man to them. Angry Black man.

"Every time you go out anywhere, you drive, and the police pull up behind you, you know it's bad. In L.A., as soon as they get behind you, you know, 'I'm getting pulled over. My day is going to be ruined today.' So it's hard for me to fully explain the frustration. But I think people are trying to express it and finding different ways to express it, whether it's protesting, rioting, burning down buildings, etc. Not to say it's the right way, but that's how people are expressing their anger because it hasn't changed."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already stated that the league will support those who choose to speak out against systemically discriminated and peacefully protest. It's a move in the right direction, and Sherman believes NFL players will be more willing to voice their opinions now.

"I expect a lot more of them to convey these messages, to convey messages about police brutality, equality, the systematic racism that's been going on," Sherman said. "And to have statistics. Because we have really intelligent and sharp players in our league who get the information and convey it. That's the part where fans are going to have to work with us a little bit.

"With football, you want to forget about politics. You want to forget about all the stuff you have going on. But right now, you can't. When you haven't seen a Black person your whole life, you don't interact with them on a daily basis, but your favorite player is a Black player, there should be some kind of relationship and empathy there, but there isn't.

"Us using that platform to make the point might turn some fans off, but it is what it is. Guys are going to continue to fight the good fight."

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