Richard Sherman — A voice of nuance and reason amid a sea of outrage and chaos

Star corner among 49ers to address Tim Ryan, Lamar Jackson controversy

Karl Buscheck
December 05, 2019 - 4:29 pm
Richard Sherman a voice of reason amid Tim Ryan, Lamar Jackson controversy

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A common LeBatardian refrain, whenever an imbroglio ignites in the world of sports (or beyond), is to ask just how high the flames will climb.

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By Thursday morning, the flames had all but engulfed 49ers radio color analyst Tim Ryan, in the wake of his clumsy and controversial comments regarding Lamar Jackson.

Said comments were made during a Monday appearance on the radio.

“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing. I mean you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision forget about it, he’s out of the gate.”

Sidenote: If these comments were made on Monday morning, why did it take until Wednesday afternoon for our outrage-culture-machine to work its way into overdrive? Were the 49ers immediately aware of these comments? Why wasn’t there a ban before the intrepid reporting of the San Francisco Chronicle's Matthias Gafni and Lauren Hernández  whose inquiry sparked everything?

But getting back on track...

On Thursday afternoon, Sherman, one of the most erudite — and outspoken — players in the NFL, barged through the metaphorical flames to provide Ryan with a very real escape.

Sherman’s response, live from the IMG Academy in Florida, where the 49ers are preparing for the Saints, ran nearly two minutes.

Sherman's words could be viewed as strategic, kiboshing the burgeoning firestorm. Football teams hate distractions. And this is one hell of a distraction. They also felt authentic and sounded plausible.

“I know Tim personally and I listened to the dialogue and saw it written,” Sherman began.”And, honestly, I wasn’t as outraged as everybody else.”

“I understand how it can be taken under a certain context and be offensive to some. But if you’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a brown ball, they're wearing dark colors and he has a brown arm.’ Honestly, sometimes we were having trouble seeing it on film.”

“You know, he’s making a play fake and sometimes he’s swinging his arm really fast, and you’re like, ‘Okay, does he have the ball on that play?’ And then you look up and (Ravens running back Mark) Ingram’s running it.”

“So, it was technically a valid point, but you can always phrase things better. You can always phrase things and not say ‘his black skin.’”

Sherman was saying what I, for one, had privately been thinking. But I, a white dude, don't get to tell anyone else what offends them. Nevermind the relentless fury of our outrage culture, just ask Peleton. So I holstered the tweets.

“But, you know, I’ve had a relationship with him since I go here. He’s never been anything but a great guy and a professional and a guy who takes the job seriously. So, it’s unfortunate that that’s what it came to but the team did what they had to do.”

“But, in that situation, it’s a play where he’s talking football. He could have used better verbiage but I don’t think anybody in this locker room is taking it offensively or anything. He’s apologized and we know his character so hopefully this can blow over and we can move past it.”

A reporter followed up. Was it an issue finding the ball?

“It’s 100 percent an issue,” Sherman replied. “What he presented, that’s why it wasn’t that offensive because what he was saying was a great point. Any time that mesh point — it’s been that way since in any zone-read scheme — the mesh point is always a tough point of contention. So, if you add a dark jersey to it, it’s going to make it even harder.” 

Dee Ford, another 49ers veteran — who told Ryan: “I’ve got your back” — couldn’t speak to Sherman’s claim. Ford, nursing quad and hamstring problems, wasn’t on the field. But…

“I would not refute that at all though.”

Sherman closed out his answer by pointing to Ryan’s word choice, one more time.

“But, obviously, you can always phrase it better,” Sherman explained.n“But I think it’s one of those things where it may have been — you know, he could have used better words — but it may have been made bigger than it really was.”

Listening to Ryan's original audio (which the Chronicle snagged for the record), it sounds as though the the club’s broadcaster is just a football guy making an empirically true observation in an ungraceful and historically problematic fashion.

The implication is that Ryan is impugning Jackson’s talent.

As such, his comments can’t be taken on a strictly technical level because to do so is to hear them in an acontextual vacuum.

Any time race is injected into the conversation, it’s fraught with controversy, because of the history of our country in general and of the quarterback position in particular. 

On this topic, Sherman, the Compton-born, Stanford-educated and Super Bowl-certified leader, stepped to the microphone and provided the voice of nuance and reason amid a sea of outrage and chaos.

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