On CNN’s “OutFront” on Tuesday, CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill argued there’s a double standard at play for outspoken black athletes like Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and outspoken white players like former NBA players Larry Bird and Jayson Williams in a segment with host Don Lemon and sports marketer Jamie Fritz.
Partial transcript as follows:
LEMON: My favorite part, that just gives me life, by the way. My favorite part is Erin Andrews when she goes, who was talking? I wish we could play it over again.
Since that rant, Sherman has been at the center of the pre-Super Bowl conversation. His Twitter followers exploding by more than 360,000. But does all of this attention help or hurt Sherman’s brand? Joining me now is Jamie Fritz, who manages Sherman’s marketing deals, and CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill. I mean, come on, Marc, doesn’t that just give you life, when you —
HILL: It is my favorite post- game interview ever.
HILL: It is awesome.
LEMON: Ever. Jamie, you know, Sherman has become almost a household name because of that rant. Is that emotion what’s driving the attention among advertisers right now?
FRITZ: Well, I think his play on the field this whole season but certainly has grabbed a lot of attention since Sunday night’s game.
LEMON: Yes. Well, to say the least.
FRITZ: It’s the only thing anybody’s talking about.
LEMON: Yes, it is. Marc, listen, I want you to listen, let’s talk about the marketing angle of the story. This weekend Beats by Dr. Dre released a new commercial featuring Sherman. I want to play just a portion for you. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have a problem with aggression?
SHERMAN: Not off the field.
REPORTER: He thinks he’s so (EXPLETIVE DELETED) untouchable.
REPORTER: Did you fight a lot as a kid?
SHERMAN: Not everyone in Compton is a gang member.
REPORTER: Richard, have gone downhill since college?
REPORTER: As an athlete, do you feel you’re untouchable?
SHERMAN: I’m not afraid of anything.
REPORTER: What do you think about your reputation as a thug?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And Sunday, Nike tweeting this out. “Keep playing until there’s nothing left to say. He has a right to make money.” But do you think marketing agencies will misuse this? Marc?
HILL: That’s what I’m worried about. Again, I think he’s an amazing player. He’s one of my favorite players. I think he’s certainly not the best in the game, top three absolutely. He deserves all the marketing money he gets, he’s all pro. My concern though is when they use this image, will they see him as an extraordinary athlete or has a knack for talking trash or will they frame him as another angry violent, disrespectful athlete. I think they missed a point on how special, how smart, how talented he is if they misused him in the marketing, and advertisers and corporations don’t care how he gets represented. They just want the money.
LEMON: Jamie, does he have a point?
FRITZ: Absolutely. You know, corporate America knows who Richard Sherman is and while you look at that interview, what did you say when you started this? It was one of the best interviews you’ve ever seen. And that’s the difference. I’ve talked to brand managers this week. They’re fired up and love it. They say this is real. This is true. In a world so full of media training and everybody’s so politically correct, we finally have a player who’s willing to speak his mind and wear his emotions on his shoulder.
LEMON: Yes, I like it when people speak their mind and they say it like they mean it. Go ahead, Marc.
HILL: I was about to say you can enter Terrell Owens-ville, too,where for the first five years they love you, they love your outspokenness, until you ask for a contract and talk about inequality in the league. Until you say something those same people don’t like and suddenly that outspokenness comes back to bite. And the other thing is part of what made Sherman a household name in the last 24 hours, because he aroused such a negative response from some people. Look at all at hatred he got on Twitter, look at all the people who called him violent names, ill names, racist names. I’m worried they’ll play on those anxieties and misuse his reputation.
LEMON: Yes. Well, come on, Marc. He shouldn’t have to worry about Twitter, just if people are buying his products and if he can play on the field. If the teams are going to hire him, they continue to use him. But, you’re right. Listen, remember we were just talking about Chris Kluwe last week who said he was not picked up after he spoke out inequality among gay people in the league. So, I think you do have a point there. Jamie, my question to you is, because you handle Sherman’s marketing deals, what is the deal now? How many calls are you getting? Is it astronomical now? Are more people interested in him because of this?
FRITZ: Well, we’ve been making noise all season. The brand managers out there have been aware of Richard. So, we’ve been in those conversations. There have been a few more that have come to the table. But I think what you guys have to understand is, you know, these guys play this game at a very high level. The adrenaline, the competitive DNA that is flowing in a game like this, I’ve said this a couple times. If you take a stopwatch and record from the moment he makes the play to the put his team in the Super Bowl to the moment Erin Andrews shows up with a camera in his face, it’s like 60 seconds. You know, the amount of adrenaline, the amount of emotion — anybody who’s played a competitive sport in a championship level knows what it’s like to have those emotions running. You know, still here’s a guy who’s never been arrested. He never said a curse word in a post-game interview. And when you look at his body of work off the field and what he does for the community and charity, it’s two completely different people. The person that you guys —
LEMON: I think many people get that. Mark and I both argued that point, that this man is not a thug. He was hopped up on adrenaline. And I think most people who were talking smack in sports bars more smack than him and have never set foot on a football field. So, you can’t really hold that against him. But not everybody thinks that way. Not everybody knows that. And sometimes perception unfortunately is reality. I hate to say that.
HILL: That’s what I’m worried about.
FRITZ: You’re referring to the guys that are all drinking beer, rooting these guys to knock each other’s heads off, right?
FRITZ: And now they have a problem with how he responded, the fact that he was that passionate and his emotions took over.
HILL: And they have a problem when certain people do it. You know, Jayson Williams, the white one, they used to call him white chocolate. Larry Bird talked more trash than perhaps anybody in NBA history in his era.
LEMON: John McEnroe, he used to talk smack right to all the refs right there alive on camera in every match. Thank you very much, guys. Appreciate it.
FRITZ: Appreciate it. Thank you for having me on.