Editor column: The Richard Sherman debate, as discussed on MLK Day
January 21, 2014
On Monday, I had a chance to reflect on the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who meant so much to helping this country evolve from the disgraceful Jim Crow-fueled, black-and-white era of decades ago.
As is the case with a lot of memorable people who've lived on this earth, Dr. King had plenty of inspiring quotes. Being a newspaper guy, well, I like quotes, and there's one in particular attributed to MLK from which I've chosen to draw inspiration:
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
It's a statement and question I feel embodies the spirit of the man who would have turned 85 years old on Monday — and it's also one we as a society often can take for granted.
Over the years, our younger generation learned about Dr. King's legacy in school. Meanwhile, many in our communities lived through the Civil Rights Movement, they watched the March on Washington and they were likely glued to the TV once reports surfaced of King's assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
Love him or hate him (yes, unfortunately, there are people who still do hate what the man stood for), what I always admired about Dr. King's legacy was his calm demeanor, his turn-the-other-cheek mentality and his incredible ability to refrain from passing judgment, no matter how ruthless the opposition.
King's dream was simple: We can live in a world in which we're all created equal, with peace and harmony being the foundation for our existence.
Sounds good to me.
But that's somewhat hypocritical for me to say. I'm human — over the past 29 years of my life, I've made mistakes. I've been quick to judge others' actions. I've done the wrong thing, in hindsight, and not turned the other cheek. I've been overly critical of others instead of thinking it through first.
Odds are, everyone has been in my shoes — after all, we are not perfect. It's how we learn from our actions, though, that can mean a world of difference.
And so enter Richard Sherman, the superstar cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, who made waves with his postgame interview moments after helping seal a conference title win Sunday night over the locally beloved San Francisco 49ers, and a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII.
His passionate comments about being the best, while simultaneously bashing 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, exploded over social media, and the talking heads on ESPN, Deadspin and several other sports (and news, too) websites couldn't get enough of the story on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"He's arrogant," some said of Sherman. "He's a great player, so he can back it up," others chimed. "Well, he's a Stanford grad and does community service, so let's cut him some slack," others opined.
In the wake of it all, the state of Internet memery on behalf of the incident transitioned to a (silly? uncalled for? mean? hilarious?) level I've never seen; Sherman's Twitter account has gained thousands of followers; and perhaps countless others were given an excuse to root for the Denver Broncos instead of Seattle on Feb. 2 in New Jersey.
The past couple days, people have asked me my opinion on the "matter." After thinking, I've come to this conclusion: "It's not that big a deal."
And here's why: In the grand scheme of things, Sherman said what he said in the heat of the moment. He's since both defended his actions and apologized for them.
Consider this: When challenged with several "heats of the moment," Martin Luther King probably wouldn't have called someone "sorry." At the same time, he likely would not immediately criticize someone's statement and judge the person solely because of it.
Instead, I'd like to think he would have calmly wondered, perhaps aloud, what he could be "doing for others" who were so quick to comment and so quick to judge. And his overall goal would be for everyone to learn from this so we all might be able to live in harmony with our fellow man and woman.
In the end, isn't that what it should really be all about?
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers; he may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin1MacMillan.