Arguably, Richard Sherman and Jonathan Martin received more media attention than any other NFL players this season.
What I find most interesting about the high-profile cases of Sherman and Martin is how the two players have led by purpose or by accident a revolution of sorts on how the media hype for black athletes has to change.
In the past, it has seemed very easy for media to get a fix on where the black athlete ‘was coming from.’ Black athletes have been painted with a broad brush for decades.
Mostly, my evaluation from the media has been that black athletes struggled mightily, using sports as a way out of their tough childhood predicaments. And, as athletes, they get the ‘jock’ perception as ‘dumb’ or ‘inarticulate.’
There really hasn’t been a diverse display for how black athletes are perceived. It’s as if they all come from one type of background and their opinions or level of education were not respected enough to make a big difference on important social issues (there are many exceptions with regard to social issues-but they seem to be found further back in history, i.e. Muhammad Ali, the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute).
Richard Sherman and Jonathan Martin both went to Stanford and played together there in 2009, 2010. This part of their backgrounds is a shared trait, but for the most part they grew up very differently. Sherman overcame the more traditional inner-city challenges to develop his skill-sets. Martin was born into a family of middle-class and more upward-mobile wealth.
What is mostly similar of Sherman and Martin is how they are dispelling the stereotypes of black athletes.
For Martin, the bullying he endured reminds the public of how not everyone fits in with the group, even 315-pound offensive linemen. Martin had to suffer with listening to racist comments and insults while trying to get along and going with the status quo. It became too much for him — so much so he had to check himself into a hospital to get himself right. The abusive culture was not right in his eyes and he is speaking out about it.
As for Sherman, his loquacious manners off the field and boisterous behaviors on the field have proven a difficult combination to gauge for many members of the media. He has been hard to get a read on as he is reading the offenses and player movements with exquisite precision and execution. He has opened more ‘doors of perception’ through his desire for perfection.
Sherman and Martin remind Americans not to judge. Black athletes are a diverse bunch with plenty to say. Their voices rise up more every year and become that much more important to society and improving it.
Mitchell Prin is a daily columnist for RantSports.com. You can follow him, @AmericanizeSocc, on Twitter.