A new form of NFL player protest has emerged regarding concerns over police misconduct involving African-American citizens. On Wednesday, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman refused to answer questions at his weekly media availability in response two recent shootings of African-American men by police: Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte.
“So today, obviously we’re playing San Fran and they’re a great opponent,” Sherman said, via Curtis Crabtree of KJR and PFT. “They’ve got some weapons. Torrey Smith, Carlos Hyde. They’re running Chip Kelly’s offense. They do a great job. They’ve been getting yards, moving the ball, scoring points. But I’m not going to answer any questions today and it’s no offense to you guys. I think the state of things in the world today is very interesting. I think you have players that are trying to take a stand and trying to be aware of social issue and try to make a stand an increase people’s awareness and put a spotlight on it and they’re being ignored. Whether they’re taking a knee or whether they’re locking arms, they’re trying to bring people together and unite them for a cause. I think the last couple days a couple more guys have gotten shot and killed in the middle of the street. More videos have come out of guys getting killed, and I think people are still missing the point. The reason these guys are kneeling, the reason we’re locking arms is to bring people together to make people aware that this is not right. It’s not right for people to get killed in the street.
“I do a lot of community service. I go out there and try to help kids and try to encourage them to be better and to aspire to more. And when you tell a kid, ‘When you’re dealing with police, just put your hands up and comply with everything,’ and there’s still a chance of them getting shot and no repercussions for anyone, that’s an unfortunate time to be living. It’s an unfortunate place to be in. There’s not a lot you can tell a kid. There’s not a lot you can try to inspire . . . a person when you say, ‘We need black fathers to be in the community to stay their for your kids,’ but they’re getting killed in the street for nothing, for putting their hands on their cars. And I think that’s the unfortunate part, that’s the unfortunate place that we’re living in. And something needs to be done. And so when a guy takes a knee, you can ignore it. You can say he’s not being patriotic, he’s not honoring the flag. I’m doing none of those things. I’m saying, straight up, this is wrong and we need to do something. So thank you guys, have a blessed day.”
Sherman then walked away.
League rules allow players to kneel or sit during the national anthem. However, league rules mandate that players make themselves available to the media at least twice per week during the regular season. Although Sherman isn’t required to provide responsive answers (e.g., he can repeatedly say, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”), he still must field questions and answer them. Sherman also could say, “I’m only going to give meaningful answers to questions about the problem of police brutality against African-Americans,” forcing the Q&A away from football and toward the issue that prompted Sherman to refuse to answer questions on Wednesday.
His approach, if it continues, sets up a potential showdown with the league office, which has been treading lightly when it comes to the anthem protests and the underlying reasons for them. If the league fines Sherman for not talking, other players could join in with the gesture; they possibly will do so even if there is no fine.
Regardless of how Sherman and other players choose to proceed, all players should keep in mind that plenty of reporters agree that the problem needs to be addressed, and that those people are paid to show up and ask questions. Shutting the process down squanders an avenue for getting a message out to fans, and it also unnecessarily inflicts a potential hardship on people who support the cause, and who are simply trying to do their jobs.
UPDATE 5:00 p.m. ET: Sherman reportedly reversed course after exiting the press conference, opting to answer questions in the locker room.