What Richard Sherman Can Teach Us About Our Double Standards

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I’m guilty of a double standard. Well, more than one. A lot. I apply double standards all of the time. But before you judge me, slow down. You’re guilty of the same thing.

On Sunday night, along with millions of other football fans, I watched in disbelief as Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman proclaimed his greatness in an on-field interview just a few minutes after making the game saving play that sent his team to the Super Bowl.

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I think I said something to myself about Sherman dishonoring the game or showing poor sportsmanship. And then I went to bed. I woke up the next morning thinking about Richard Sherman.

What if he played for my favorite NFL team, the Falcons?

Would I have felt the same way?

No. I would have said something about his passion for the game. So there it was right in front of me. At the heart level, I didn’t have a problem with what Richard Sherman said. He just happened to play for the wrong team.

My favorite fighter is Nick Diaz. In a 15-minute fight Nick Diaz will spend somewhere around 12-minutes telling his opponent the same thing that Richard Sherman said. When the fight is over, he’ll tell his opponent’s wife and mother. But Diaz is my guy so it’s okay.

And the same goes for Reggie Miller. He was the greatest trash talker in NBA history. But I liked him. And so I never said anything about him ruining the game. It was all just gamesmanship.

Like I said, I’m not alone. You have your double standards too. Everyone does. Our society is full of double standards.

Take text messages for example.

The kid on the news who sends out a text while driving and gets into a wreck is being “reckless” and “irresponsible.” When you do it, it’s because you’re busy.

Sometimes our double standards are revealed on matters of free speech.

Like those who rushed to defend Richard Sherman, saying that “at least he spoke from the heart and didn’t give the boring, standard athlete answers” but failed to apply the same measure of grace to a duck hunter from Louisiana.

Perhaps most painfully, we see double standards in matters of race.

Consider your favorite dead historical figure who happens to share the same skin color as you. When he did and said something stupid, or even immoral, it’s because he was doing what had to be done in order to see justice prevail. But what about the man of a different race who crossed the line back in the day? Oh, he’s a terrorist.

A black kid with long hair and baggy pants is “a thug.” A white kid with long hair and the silhouette of some woman on the mud flaps of his truck is just being country.

When five black kids jump a white kid at school, it’s because the school lacked the proper funding needed to provide adequate leadership for those five youths. When five white kids jump a black kid, it’s a hate crime. Correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but if one (or five) people, regardless of race, religion or sexual preference, attack another individual, isn’t it always a hate crime? Aren’t all violent crimes fueled by hate? What exactly does a loving violent crime look like?

To his credit, Richard Sherman apologized for his comments. That means that we should let it go. After all, we all say and do stupid things. A closer look reveals that there is more to the story than just some athlete drawing attention to himself. Sure, that was part of it. But there was more. Sherman and Michael Crabtree, the receiver he shut down to help his team get the win, have a history with each other.

And maybe that’s how we should look at every story we see on the news and every new person that we meet. There’s more to their story than we can gather at first sight. But that would require taking the time to get to know people who are different from us. It also requires taking the time to get to know ourselves and our own tendencies towards double standards.

But who’s got time for that when it’s so much easier to just slap a label one someone?

Even if that label doesn’t really fit.