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Whitlock: Richard Sherman’s criticism of Matt Stafford shows Sherman still plans to be left-wing Charles Barkley

Op-ed
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Yesterday, NFL star and Stanford grad Richard Sherman made great use of his black privilege.

Sherman announced his retirement from football and launched his TV broadcasting career by climbing on the back of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Matt Stafford.

Sherman took a massive dump on the idea of the Rams’ Super Bowl victory justifying Stafford’s candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A handful of broadcasters on ESPN and the NFL Network floated the idea of Stafford wearing a gold jacket. Sherman filed a strong objection over Twitter.

“The HOF bar is incredibly low now,” Sherman tweeted. “Like a participation trophy. No all decade team. No All pro. No MVP. 1 Pro Bowl. Not even MVP of the SB. Never considered the best in any year he played. At least M(att). Ryan has an MVP.”

Sherman went back and forth with people defending Stafford. He added: “All Pro is a measuring stick. All Decade is a measuring stick. Those show you were considered best at your position during the time you played. If you were not in that discussion you def shouldn’t be in HOF consideration.”

In a different tweet, Sherman said: “There’s no measuring stick that makes Stafford a hall of famer other than playing in the most passer happy decade in NFL history. Inflated numbers make ever(y) QB that starts 10+ years a hof.”

Every word of Sherman’s critique is 100 percent accurate. I agree with every single word. The Hall of Fame has lowered the standard for induction. Very good players are being enshrined alongside all-time greats. Stafford, at the moment, is not worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

Sherman’s commentary is fair. It’s just extremely unusual coming from an active NFL player, especially a player as accomplished as Sherman. Stafford and Sherman are peers. They’re the same age. Their careers overlapped. There’s a fraternity among NFL players. They’re generally highly reluctant to criticize each other in a straightforward manner. Unless they’re in the process of transitioning to a second lucrative career.

Richard Sherman is done as a player. He finished the 2021 season on injured reserve for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs picked him up in October. He played his last game in mid-December. Since then, Sherman has focused on his podcast.

A week before the Super Bowl, on his podcast, Sherman began his attack on Stafford’s legacy. Those comments were mostly ignored. Sherman aired his Stafford critique on Twitter so that the media would notice, particularly media executives.

A few years ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Sherman would easily transition into a TV broadcasting career. That was before cameras caught Sherman terrorizing the home of his wife and in-laws in July 2021. Sherman wrestled with police. He was eventually arrested and charged with driving under the influence, endangering roadway workers, resisting arrest, and domestic-violence-related counts of malicious mischief and criminal trespass.

The incident raised questions about Sherman’s mental stability and undermined his prospects of landing a high-priced, cushy studio job.

Enter Matt Stafford. The Rams’ quarterback offered Sherman an ideal opportunity to remind television executives why they coveted his services before the domestic dispute. Sherman has been on the radar of TV networks since his 2014 NFC Championship postgame interview, when he shocked Fox Sports sideline reporter Erin Andrews with a boisterous attack on 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.

“Don’t you ever talk about me!”

It’s arguably the most famous postgame interview in the history of sports. It established Sherman as the loudest mouth in football and football’s answer to Charles Barkley.

It was easy to imagine Sherman earning $5 to $10 million a year talking football. That’s quite the football golden parachute. Thanks to the domestic incident, things are much trickier for Sherman.

Enter Matt Stafford. The Rams’ quarterback offered Sherman the perfect opportunity to promote his podcast and tempt TV executives. Criticizing Stafford is low-risk. He’s white. His wife once criticized Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling and complained that Michigan’s mask mandates were authoritarian. Plus, at this moment, Stafford’s resume is unworthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

Richard Sherman can’t lose. Publicly ripping Stafford is a win-win-win situation for Sherman. It’s a good controversy. It overshadows his last controversy – the video of him trying to bulldoze his father-in-law’s front door. The criticism of Stafford demonstrates Sherman’s ability to state opinions that drive conversation on other platforms. Sherman’s handlers will take the stories written about the reaction to his Stafford comments and show them to media executives as proof that the media has moved beyond his domestic incident. It’s all forgotten.

Sherman’s next publicity stunt will be to take a strident political stance or accuse someone white of racism. Maybe he will offer strong words in support of Brian Flores and his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.

Richard Sherman was supposed to be the left-wing Charles Barkley. He is in the process of rehabilitating his broadcasting career. Stafford is just a pawn in Sherman’s personal chess game.

Who knows? Tom Brady could be Sherman’s next chess move.
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