Race and Richard Sherman: Rant reaction resonates beyond sports

SEATTLE - The conversation surrounding Seahawk Richard Sherman's post-game rant has moved beyond the world of sports talk and into the realms of racial politics and popular culture.

Sherman himself calls the national response to his 20 second interview with Fox Sports' Erin Andrews "mind boggling" and "sad."

On CNN Tuesday, reporter Rachel Nickels questioned him about the openly racist tweets that appeared online in response to his rant.

"It's kind of sad the way the world reacted," Sherman said. He quickly added that not all his critics turned ugly.

"But for people who did react that way and throw the racial slurs out there it was really sad, especially so close to Martin Luther King Day."

Many in the Twitterverse dropped "f-bombs" and "n-words" to describe Sherman. Some added "ape" and "gorilla" to the mix. Others offered graphic threats of violence against the outspoken cornerback.

Sherman told Nickels his rant against 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree does not reflect his character. He said it happened because he had just played a football game at a high level and "got excited." On the other hand, he said, his critics on Twitter carefully considered their remarks.

"They showed their true character," Sherman said. "Those were real comments, not in a moment. They had time to think about it. They were sitting at a computer, and they expressed themselves in a true way. I thought society had moved past that."

Some tweets supported Sherman, notably one from a legendary athlete who encountered his share of racial ugliness. Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron tweeted to Sherman "hang in there & keep playing as well as you did Sunday. Excellent job - you have my support."

Sherman tweeted back his thanks, saying Aaron's support is "greatly appreciated and very humbling." Aaron, who's African American, faced a torrent of racial hatred in the 1970s as he chased and broke Babe Ruth's career home run record.

Also on Tuesday an award-winning comedian got into the act. Andy Samberg appeared on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman, where he told the host the Seahawks can "get bent."

Samberg recently won a Golden Globe for acting on the Fox series Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He told Letterman he's a 49ers fan and is "not too plussed" with the Seattle franchise.

Without mentioning Sherman, Samberg said he must root for the Broncos now.

"As far as I'm concerned, the Seattle Seahawks can get bent," he said, to laughter and applause from the studio audience.

Antipathy toward Sherman naturally has spread to Denver, home of the Seahawks' Super Bowl opponents. A Denver Post blog points out an appliance store billboard, featuring pictures of Sherman and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Above Bailey appears the word "class." Above Sherman: "No class."

A marquee outside a Denver bar reads: "Seattle has a chump, we have a champ."

Much of the country is outfitting the Seahawks with black hats and twirling moustaches. Sherman played a big part in turning the Hawks into villains, but blames the "Twelfth Man," saying Seattle fans "are rabid, and that makes them easy for other fans to hate."

The same column says the Seahawks are forced into the bad guy role because Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is well respected and dignified, compared to the "brash, trash talking" Hawks.