What I like about Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, in addition to his ability to knock wide receivers all over the field, is his ability to get us to think. And his ability to get us to talk. Preferably in that order.
But I'm not so sure Sherman gave a lot of thought before speaking when he told Time that the NFL would not have come down as hard on Clippers owner Donald Sterling as the NBA did.
With due respect to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, let's start with this: Did Silver have any choice but to deal with Sterling severely? Was there another side of the argument that I missed? What would the reaction have been from fans, players and sponsors if Silver had given Sterling a slap on the wrist? If Silver tried to save Sterling, he would have hung himself.
The NFL is the NBA times 25. Whatever pressure Silver felt is minor compared to what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would feel if he had to deal with an NFL version of Sterling. He could no sooner survive an implicit endorsement of behavior like Sterling's than he could survive a jump off the Empire State Building.
The NFL is 70 percent African-American. Don't you think the players -- bold players like Sherman -- would have something to say about a football version of Sterling? What about Goodell's bosses, the 32 NFL owners? Men with strong voices like Dan Rooney, Robert Kraft, John Mara and Arthur Blank would not stand for it.
In his interview with Time, Sherman said, "I don't think the NFL really is as concerned as they show. The NFL is more of a bottom-line league. If it doesn't affect their bottom line, they're not as concerned."
The point he misses here is that a Sterling situation would affect the bottom line. Goodell presides over a league so encompassing that its selection process, held on this lovely spring weekend, will draw more viewers and stir up more interest than any other event on the sporting calendar these days -- including basketball and hockey playoffs, major league baseball interleague rivalry games and the crown jewel of horse racing. Each new NFL season becomes the greatest series in history of television. Companies on every street corner are partners with the NFL. Being in bed with someone like Sterling would impact many of the NFL's relationships and be very, very bad for business.
Beyond all that, there is no scenario I could imagine in which Goodell would want to protect someone who did what Sterling did. It's easy to take shots at Goodell; his job is not simple, and he deals with far more grays than blacks and whites. But anyone who knows him will tell you he is committed to doing the right thing. His definition of the right thing may not be the same as Sherman's definition, but that doesn't mean Goodell would look the other way if he saw clear injustice.
Goodell is a strong and powerful commissioner who is unafraid to make tough decisions. He has made them before. He is likely to make another when he punishes Colts owner Jim Irsay for being charged with impaired driving and possession of controlled substances. Assuming he would not act the way Silver did -- solely because he has not done more to get Dan Snyder to change his team's nickname -- is unfair.
Comparing the Redskins situation and the Sterling situation is not apples to apples. It is not apples to oranges. It is more like apples to road apples. Whatever Sherman or Snyder or Goodell thinks of the Redskins name, we all can agree that the name remains popular with a significant percentage of the population. Sterling's actions were popular with almost no one. Calling Washington's team the Redskins might not be sensitive or admirable, but it's not significantly hurting the NFL. Putting up with actions like Sterling's would.
I think what Sherman may have been trying to say is that the Sterling scandal offers another opportunity for the NFL to reconsider the Redskins nickname. "I would hope it would help…reinitiate the conversation," he said. "And at least there would be another discussion. You know, I think the discussion has stopped. And the public has just accepted it. And I think there should be more conversations. But it is what it is."
Talking about it -- and thinking about it first -- is never a bad thing.