In case you missed it – though, how could you, since it’s been Tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagramed countless times in all its self-serving glory? – Sherman held court in front of the Seattle media this past Tuesday, flanked by a cardboard cutout of teammate, wide receiver Doug Baldwin. The real Doug Baldwin was actually crouched behind the podium next to Sherman for some unknown comedic effect. What followed was a nonsensical rant, concocted the duo, that criticized many of the NFL's policies.
In their little childish rantings, both Baldwin and Sherman criticized the NFL for a variety of things such as not allowing them to wear certain headphones, the NFL's call for player safety but making some teams play twice in a span of seven days, cracking down on player DUIs but still having Budweiser as the NFL's biggest sponsor. They even touched on how their teammate, running back Marshawn Lynch, was fined $100,000 for violating the NFL’s media policy, which requires players to be available to reporters at the practice facility during the week and after games.
To summarize it in a simple nutshell, Richard Sherman’s disturbing, illogical sketch comedy routine essentially likened the NFL to an irrational slave trader. However the irony in all of that is if he had the 'misfortune' of working a 9-5 like the rest of us in the real word and pulled this stunt, more than not, he'd been handed a pink slip for blatant insubordination, pack all his things in his cubicle, and then be escorted out by security. These so-called 'inhumane working conditions' – wait, you have to wear someone else’s free headphones for an entire 90 minutes on game day? – fail to wrest any sympathy from us working-class stiffs who live paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to pay monthly bills and don’t earn 45 percent of our employer’s sponsorship revenue in addition to our weekly and/or monthly paychecks.
Sherman and Baldwin would’ve been better suited presenting their misinformed parody to the two percent of the population that actually lives in the same tax bracket of their fantasy world. The fact of the matter is that the other 98 percent simply can’t relate to their 'plight.' This dynamic duo essentially walked into commissioner Roger Goodell’s office, wiped their dirty cleats on his carpet, and spat in his face. Worse part is that there’s not a damn thing Goodell will do about it for fear of being criticized – again – for punishing two zany troublemakers worse than a wife-beater or child abuser.
In their attempt to show us how bad they have it, Sherman and Baldwin fail to realize how lucky they actually are. It's not just because their dopey drama, which will more than likely go unpunished, but because the sponsorship deals they’re either championing or complaining about – both which they profit off of – wouldn't exist if they didn't play in the league they so emphatically criticized. If players want to wear their own headphones (a conundrum created by the league signing an exclusive sponsorship deal with Bose, preventing players from promoting rival headphones before or after games) and not have to deal with the media, there’s a simple solution: Quit.
Sherman, Baldwin, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, or anyone else who complains about not being able to wear their Beats by Dre headphones – a company that sponsors several NFL athletes, including Sherman and Kaepernick – are more than welcome to join the rest of us in the real world where you can wear and say what you like. However you’ll probably now have to pay for your headphones since Beats by Dre doesn’t sponsor the guy who tightens bolts at Town Fair Tire.
What Sherman and Baldwin also failed to tell you during their monologue is they earn 45 percent of the money generated from league endorsement deals. So while they stood on their soapbox criticizing the NFL for its partnership with Anheuser-Busch and for having the audacity to dissuade its players from drinking and driving, they too are lining their pockets with Budweiser money. This is more than just biting the hand that feeds you. It’s like chopping it off at the wrist.
Sherman and Baldwin want you to believe they’re being forced to work in a third-world sweatshop sewing baby bonnets for Kathie Lee Gifford under the cancerous glow of fluorescent lights, but the truth is they have more rights than you think. They have the right to walk away and find a new line of work where they’re not burdened with the unenviable task of having to answer softball questions twice a week from indigent peasants masquerading as journalists.
Since this all stems from Lynch’s childish refusal to cooperate with the NFL’s media policy – Lynch also skipped the team’s trip to the White House after Seattle won the Super Bowl for no reason other than the fact he didn’t want to be there – it’s worth noting players such as Lynch, Sherman and others make millions based off the exposure from playing in the NFL. Without it, there are no endorsements, stipends or weak excuses for their boorish behavior. They’d actually be forced to suffer the consequences of their actions.
Lynch’s refusal to respect authority or – gasp! – break out of his comfort zone from time to time enforces the stereotype of the coddled athlete constantly told he can do whatever he wants as long as he continues to produce between the lines. It’s because of this continuous regurgitation of said stereotype that widens the gap between the professional athlete and the common fan. The people applauding Lynch for falling on his sword over such a ridiculous cause or snickering at the Sherman-Baldwin vaudeville act are missing the bigger picture. Fans constantly demand more from professional athletes – more behind-the-scenes footage, more insight, more details of their private lives – yet have no problem with an athlete trying to cut the umbilical cord between the fans and players. It’s as senseless as suggesting your seven-figure job is a cross to bear.
In the end, blame society. Blame the parents who raised disrespectful children encouraged to challenge authority. Your place of employment has rules and you’re obligated to follow those rules regardless of whether or not you think they make sense. Otherwise you’re free to go and to find a new place to work, but prepared to face the consequences of your decision. Lynch, Sherman, Baldwin and countless others will complain to everyone who’s willing to listen, but would never give up the perks of being a professional athlete for fear of having to live a sedentary lifestyle with the 98th percentile. It makes their cries of injustice seem as hollow as their opinions and tasteless like their showboating routines.
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