NFL players talk about race with Harvard students

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - Richard Sherman was called all kinds of names after his raging rant at the end of the NFC championship game. It was worth it, the Seattle cornerback said, because it gave him a chance to talk about the perception of black athletes to a wider audience.

First, at the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, at Harvard.

“I wanted to educate the uneducated,” Sherman said in a discussion at the Harvard Business School. “I felt the need to turn the discussion on its head.”

Sherman was mostly known only by football fans before his admittedly overexcited postgame trash-talk about Michael Crabtree after the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers to win the NFC title. As he became the center of attention during Super Bowl week, Sherman chose not to back down from the comments.

“I don’t regret anything about it,” he said, though he later conceded that it was a “bad moment.” ”I chose my words very carefully, though I couldn’t control my tone. My delivery left something to be desired. But I knew what I was doing. When they called me a ‘thug,’ I provoked a discussion.”

That discussion took him to Harvard, along with former NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. They gave two talks, one at the business school that was supposed to be about social media that quickly veered into a discussion of race; the other, to undergraduates in historic Harvard Yard, was introduced as, “The Modern Black Male Athlete.”

Both were packed with a standing-room crowd. A handful of attendees wore Seahawks jerseys or hats.

Sherman said he thought “thug” was just a more acceptable way of slurring black people; he’s never heard it used for whites or Asians, he said.

“If you call Richard Sherman a thug, you have never seen a thug,” Foster told the business school students, drawing a big laugh. “It just blew my entire mind.”

But the way Sherman handled it helped advance the understanding of black athletes, Foster said.

“To have those discussions at Super Bowl media (day), that’s huge,” he said.

Foxworth compared Sherman to Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith, who were sent home from the 1968 Summer Games for raising their black-gloved fists to call attention to the plight of blacks in America.

“They worked their entire life to win that sprint, and then they got on the medal stand they put up their fist to let people know we had a problem,” said Foxworth, who played for the Broncos, Falcons and Ravens. “I’m proud of what Richard did. He forced us to have a conversation.”

Sherman is against the NFL’s attempt to ban the “n-word” from the field, saying the league didn’t seem to care about it when whites were saying it.

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