Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman doesn't tolerate any trash-talking — and before he even made that known to the nation on Sunday, he starred in a quasi-prophetic ad for Dr. Dre's Beats, a line of luxury headphones and earphones that are worth hundreds of dollars.
Here's what the San Francisco 49ers' receiver Michael Crabtree had to say about Sherman last week, who's been fond of referring to himself as the best cornerback in the NFL.
Is Sherman the best cornerback? Crabtree responded: "I don't think so. I don't know nothing about the best cornerbacks in the league, I just know teams. We're playing the Seattle Seahawks and hopefully we come out with a win."
Well, damn. That's a pretty mild response ... and Sherman didn't like it one bit.
Ensue Sunday's NCF Championship Game, when Sherman tipped a pass intended for Crabtree and sent it to linebacker Michael Smith, cinching the game (and a spot at Super Bowl XLVIII) for the Seahawks.
Then in the viral post-game interview:
That is some smack. (And poor sportsmanship, though Sherman has his share of defenders.)
But just hours before, a perfectly timed commercial featuring Sherman hit the airwaves, touching on the EXACT same themes spotlighted in his Sunday post-game interview and subsequent backlash:
In the ad, Sherman maintains his cool, until a reporter asks him a racially-tinged question he won't tolerate:
"What do you think of your reputation as a thug?"
Sherman sighs, shakes his head, and says: "I don't have that reputation" before doing the advertising equivalent of dropping the mic and walking off the stage.
Boom. A regular ad just turned into an identity statement: Haters gonna hate, but the hated don't need to take it.
The background: According to a Monday op-ed written by Sherman titled "To those who would call me a thug or worse," the rivalry with Crabtree started well before the two teams were facing off on the field for the Super Bowl slot. Apparently, there's some nasty backstory behind Sherman's poor sportsmanship:
"But that’s not why I don’t like the man. It goes back to something he said to me this offseason in Arizona, but you’d have to ask him about that. A lot of what I said to Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don’t like him."
(Reading between the lines here, Sherman seems to be implying Crabtree called him a thug — or something akin to that.)
"But people find it easy to take shots on Twitter, and to use racial slurs and bullying language far worse than what you'll see from me. It’s sad and somewhat unbelievable to me that the world is still this way, but it is. I can handle it."
Sherman later apologized:
"I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates ... That was not my intent," he said Monday in a text message to ESPN's Ed Werder.
But he didn't apologize for what he said, and barring some unlikely reconciliation, don't expect him to.
The bottom line: Whether or not you think his remarks about Crabtree were poor sportsmanship, Sherman has a point about the race-tinged, unfair way fans have responded to his antics. As The Verge noted, this is what happened immediately after Sherman's beat-down on Sunday:
Are people surprised about Sherman? He's a thug, it happens— Blaine Stewart (@BlaineStewart41) January 20, 2014
Sherman is a thug. I can't wait to see him get blown up by Peyton and the Broncos receivers.— ?? Nutts ?? (@Nutts__) January 20, 2014
Brush it off and keep on hearing only what you want to hear, Sherman. The big day's just a week a half away, and you don't have time for the haters.
And while he's at it, he's gonna make some money off that hard reputation.