Richard Sherman And The Soft Bigotry Of (Sportswriters’) Expectations
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For those of you who do not follow football, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made a game-saving interception in the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. But shortly afterwards, ESPN reporter Erin Anderson interviewed Sherman and he responded like a professional wrestler:

Andrews: Richard, let me ask you about the final play; take me through it.

Sherman: Well I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like [San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree] that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me!

Andrews: Who was talking about you?

Sherman: Crabtree. Don’t you ever open your mouth about the best! Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick! L.O.B!

Sherman also made a choking gesture towards Crabtree.

Suffice to say, this is not exactly great sportsmanship. Many NFL fans did not like Sherman’s boorish behavior, and, as it’s the Age of the Internet, some posted Politically Incorrect language about it.

Significantly, almost all the ensuing Main Stream Media commentary about the Sherman incident, both positive and negative, focused on how smart Sherman is and how racist his detractors are.

In a Forbes Magazine article that went viral, 22 Brief Thoughts About That Richard Sherman Interview, January 19, 2014 Thought # 4 was

Sherman graduated second in his class in high school and also graduated from Stanford. So not only is he not a fool, odds are he’s smarter than you and me.

(In case you are wondering, Thought # 3 was “Sherman is black, and so of course there was an undercurrent of race to some—OK, a lot—of the discussion.”

Writing in the Washington Post’s black-oriented website The Root, Stephen Crockett wrote:

If being a thug means being salutatorian of your high school with a 4.2 GPA and 1,400 SAT scores, graduating from Stanford, delivering on your promise of greatness and showing no ability to humble-brag—then the black community could use more thugs like Richard Sherman.[ Seahawks’ Richard Sherman Is Not a Thug. Stop Calling Him One, January 21, 2014]

All in all, Crockett used the some variant of “intelligent” or “smart” 17 times in his article.

Seth Stevenson, one of the few MSM writers to come out against Sherman’s rant, still had to qualify: “The fact that Sherman is very smart and attended Stanford and approaches his job in a scholarly manner doesn’t mean he wasn’t being a dick.”

And of course Stevenson also qualified that “the despicable, racist language being lobbed at Sherman needs to be shouted down, aggressively.”

The most over-the-top ode to Sherman’s intelligence: Tim Buffoe’s The Scary Smart Of Richard Sherman. [CBS, January 21, 2014] After making sure to note that much of the backlash was “racially motivated,” Buffoe said that Sherman was “is a very smart person… [whose] intelligence frightens people.” Buffoe went on and on, using some variant of “smart” or “intelligent” 17 times.

Even Rush Limbaugh opined that Sherman “is really smart, well spoken, well educated…He went to Stanford, went to class, graduated, is extremely well spoken, well written…”] Richard Sherman is a Smart Guy, January 20, 2014]

When Sherman issued a sort-of apology, he made sure to let everyone know that when he’s screaming on the football field, “then it's not going to come out as articulate, as smart” as he normally is. He then spent most of the interview chastising his “racist” opponents, claiming that "It's like everybody would say the N-word, now they say, 'thug.'” Richard Sherman: Rant was 'immature,' reaction 'mind-boggling, By Lateef Mungin and Steve Almasy, CNN, January 23, 2014,

So according to both conservatives and liberals, graduating second in your class in high school, attending Stanford as a star football player, and having a 1400 on the SATs is evidence of genius. For non-Gen Y or childless readers, the SAT added a writing section, so the top score is now 2400, not 1600. Sherman actually scored 990 in 2006, on the old style of test. The Root apparently applied the conversion without explaining it.

Curiously, although I often hear liberals bring up “affirmative action for athletes” (along with legacies) to counter criticism of racial preference, the people saying how smart Sherman is are forgetting he presumably Sherman got into Stanford due to his football skills, to say nothing of his race, rather than his intelligence. Even black students could not get into Stanford with a Sherman’s SAT scores.

Sherman’s 1400/990 on the SATs is below the average test taker score, normed at 1000 in 2006. And it is nearly 3 standard deviations below the average Stanford SAT of 2215, new style.

What about graduating second in his class in high school? Sherman attended Dominguez High School in Compton, which is 13% black, 83% Hispanic, 1% Asian, and 0.1% white. A grand total of 6.3 % of students are proficient in Math and 27.5% are proficient in English. Being valedictorian or salutatorian in these circumstances may mean painfully little.

Elite schools like Stanford do not take average students. According to,  in 2005, Stanford accepted less than 1% of students who had below a 500 on Reading and just 1% had below a 500 on Math. (I could not find the statistics for the combined score for 2005, and the next year the SATs changed their scoring system. However, it is a fair assumption that the students who managed to get in with below a 500 math score likely did much better on verbal, and vice versa. Thus even with affirmative action, there's no way Stanford would have accepted Sherman, but for his football abilities.)

However, the NFL has all incoming players take the Wonderlic test, which is a very accurate proxy for IQ. Sherman scored a 24, which is equivalent to a 108 IQ. That’s a standard deviation and a half higher than your average black, and smarter than your average white American.

But it’s lower than the average for the predominantly white positions of center, quarterback, and lineman. It’s far below Peyton Manning’s 28 (116 IQ), Tom Brady’s 33 (126 IQ), or Eli Manning’s 38.5 (137 IQ).

More importantly, it’s below the 115 IQ that, just a few decades ago, was viewed as necessary to attend college—much less an elite university like Stanford.

So Richard Sherman is no doofus. But he’s not as exceptional as he’s made out to be.

What does this matter?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. No one bothers to call Eli Manning smart, because they know it’s not an anomaly that a white quarterback is intelligent. Yet some dreadlocked black cornerback has a slightly above-average intelligence, and every sportswriter bends over backwards to call him a genius.

To quote George W. Bush: this is “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist

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