San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman joined the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possibility of a shortened preseason, systematic racism, and much more. Let’s start with how Sherm feels about going from four games to two:
I think it’s a mixed bag because you want younger guys to get a good opportunity and get some real preseason action and not have their first NFL reps be live bullets. There’s also a safety aspect as there weren’t OTAs and no minicamp. With everything closed, you have to go under the assumption that they didn’t have adequate training facilities. Obviously, guys are going to be pros and find ways to get it done. It’s not reasonable to expect them to be training at facilities you would need to compete at the NFL level. There will be a ramp-up period, and we’re still in discussions about that. I have no real problems with us having limited preseason games. I don’t play in a ton of them as is, but there are some of us who need to go out there and get some reps before the real thing happens.
Do you see that there’s been a major change in the protests from 2016 to what’s going on in the world now?
Since I’ve been alive, I don’t remember it being this strong of an impact and reaching this many people and this many people being upset and emotional about it. Even in 2016, they found a way to dull down that message and divert it and make it about something else, in a way to avoid the conversation. This time it’s too full fledge, and most people are getting the message and seeing it first hand. Nobody can turn their eyes away from what’s happening. Any human with any true empathy in them for their fellow human beings would feel that strong. That’s why you sit there and to make the point to people that don’t get it. You have to try and take yourself out of being a random stranger and see them as one of your own. That feeling should energize you to add yourself to the fight. That’s why I think this will last a lot longer and be great.
What do you think of the NFL’s response and Roger Goodell’s video that came out last week, and what does the league need to do going forward to reinforce that message and not seem like it’s taking advantage of an opportunity?
Having some people of color represented in the general-manager space, the front-office space, obviously head coaches. That would go a long way. They have tried their best to throw money behind it for a long time, but it takes more than that. It takes you literally calling out bigotry and being motivated, not just letting it be a fleeting fad. It’s being consistent year-in- and year out, that you’re combating this issue, and it’s a problem that needs to change. Not just this year. Not just 2016. Not just 2017.
If black lives matter, they have to matter forever. They have to matter every year. For most of us, we have to live it every day. And so many people are talking about, ‘I’m so tired of dealing with these politics in sports, I’m so tired of having to deal with these race issues.’ How do you think black people feel? We deal with it forever, from the day we’re born to the day we get put in the ground. It’s up to everybody to end this.
How do you keep the momentum of this movement going?
The change will be policy. The change will be when the people who are racists are uncomfortable being that. When they’re at home an being called out. When they’re around their inner circle and being called out. When policy changes.
I think guys will use their platforms, even once the game resumes, they’ll use their social media platforms, they’ll use press conferences, they’ll use the game-day platform that we have to continue this messaging and continue to fight the good fight because it’s a lifetime of living like this. And guys hope that this can be the time it changes.
How are you handling what I presume is a whole lot of white people contacting you, seeing how you feel and checking on you, and trying to have this conversation about how they can be better or whatever the case?
Honestly, it hasn’t been as many as other people. Only been a couple for me. It has been simple. A lot of times, those people aren’t the problem, but they have friends and family who speak a certain way, who are a bit bigoted, who have the notion that certain people are inferior because of the color of their skin. And it is on those people, in order for us to have true growth, to combat that. To make those people uncomfortable to feel that way, because it’s not true. We’re all human beings, and a lot of times, preconceived judgment is a detriment to all. I talk to them about just having that growth and having those difficult, uncomfortable conversations. That helps more than anything.
This has been going on for 400 years, and we’re probably the only country that has such an awful, dark stain on their history that doesn’t really want to talk about it. They don’t want to put it in American history books. They don’t want to explain it. So, if in 400 years people couldn’t explain this and get the point through, I don’t think I would be able to explain to them the depth of the pain of the inequity in a few minutes or a few hours. I try to keep it as simple as I can.