Richard Sherman Says the NFL Should Be More Like the NBA When it Comes to Player Activism

Richard Sherman Says the NFL Should Be More Like the NBA When it Comes to Player Activism

May 29, 2018

"They do their best to suppress players' personalities and uniqueness and do their best to uphold the shield."


There's not much Richard Sherman can do without it making noise. Most every time he does a thing, the Internet makes it A Thing. (Remember the postgame tirade heard round the world?) So, when news broke that the all-star cornerback recently brokered his own deal with the San Francisco 49ers—the rival of his former Seattle Seahawks team, whose NFL-best "Legion of Boom" defense he helmed and led to a Super Bowl victory in 2014—Sports Twitter went to work.

Some of the subsequent noise came in the form of criticism from those who thought Sherman left money on the table by negotiating a deal without the seasoned eye of an agent. Some of it came from angry Seattle fans burning his jersey. Sherman, never one to back down, penned a piece on the Players' Tribune reminding fans that Seattle released him first, and arguing that, coming off a season in which he had surgery on both of his Achilles tendons, he negotiated the best deal he could have (three years, up to $39 million, if he hits all of his incentives).

All of which is to say: when Sherman takes the field next season in a 49ers jersey, expect it to be loud.

In conversation with GQ, Sherman talked about his new suit line—RSPCT Suits by Richard Sherman—why it bothers him when people choose to call him "well-spoken," and what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could stand to learn from the NBA about empowering his players.

GQ: So you just started this suit line. When was the first time you became conscious of your own personal style?
Richard Sherman: I've always really liked how I looked in a suit. When I was a little kid, I'd put them on and I always thought it was professional—it gave you a different kind of swagger and demeanor, so I've always enjoyed dressing up with a suit on.

I just wanted a more affordable way for kids to get suits, and people in general. In order for you to get those nice suits, and a nice shirt, it'll cost you a $1,000—$700-800 at the minimum.

Do you have a go-to lucky suit?
If I'm feeling some type of way, I'm wearing all black: Black on black on black on black with a bow tie. So it's not really [a] go-to, but that's what I'm wearing if I'm feeling like I'm about to go do some damage.

A lot of noise has been made about your recent move to San Francisco. How much of the noise do you hear?
I don't really listen to much of it. I've said what I had to say about it, and that's pretty much the end of the attention I pay towards it.

In your welcoming press conference, when addressing how you negotiated your own deal, you said agents feel uncomfortable with players taking their own initiative.
The biggest threat to agents is an educated player. A lot of them take advantage of players being financially illiterate, or just being lazy at times and not wanting to go through the process of being informed, or people being intimidated in negotiations. They do one year of work and get paid for three, four years of service, and it doesn't matter if the bonus is [something] the player has to fully earn. "Hey, you get $500,000-600,000 dollars for rushing for 2000 yards," which is all the player, and he still has to give 3 percent to an agent who actually did nothing.

There's a lot of people out there saying you could've gotten a better contract if you'd used an agent. How would you respond to them?
There's a ton of bad deals done by agents. Coming off of two lower leg surgeries, there's not many agents that could've negotiated a better deal. They can say whatever they want, but they couldn't have. I got half of my deals guaranteed. What I had with Seattle that wasn't guaranteed at all. They could have cut me at the end of camp and I'd have gotten nothing, no matter what. I get my $5 million, and then you know, if I play, I can make up to $13 million, which is more than I would have gotten with Seattle.

At the end of the day, it's just them trying to downplay and lessen the impact of a player negotiating his own deal. Now, at the end of this deal, in three years, if I've made $39 million, you won't hear a lot of agents saying "Oh my god, look at how great this is." You'll hear them downplaying it like "Oh, they got lucky" or "Man, this is a once in a lifetime"—it will always be another excuse.

How does your competitiveness manifest itself off the field?
It's more in business, the negotiations with companies and trying to influence others. And trying to get people to understand the difference between being average, being good, and being great is mentality. It's not accepting failure. It's all about how you react and respond to that criticism—that determines if you're going to be a champion or if you're going to be somebody watching somebody else win championships.

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