Fox Sports has responded to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s notorious post-game interview by reenacting it with children.
In the reenactment, children repeat Sherman’s outburst, in which he exclaimed, “I’m the best corner in the game!” and called out San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, saying, “Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!”
Children acting like adults is a long-running comedic gag. But given that the rant prompted many viewers to call Sherman, who is black, a “thug,” a “monkey,” and worse, Fox’s reenactment with white kids is tainted by a disturbing racial undertone that’s hard to ignore. When Jimmy Kimmel spoofed Kanye West’s bizarre, braggadocious BBC interview in a similar fashion, for example, the rapper took offense. Gawker’s Cord Jefferson wrote about the racist undertones of using a black child to impersonate West:
The BBC interview was personal and honest and heartfelt, but it was also frenetic and boastful and rambling at times—perfect fodder for late night TV, in other words. Kimmel mocked it by reproducing the interview with a black kid in place of West. When West took offense, and let loose a series of furious tweets, Kimmel gave the smirk of a comedian who couldn’t see the big deal. You know the one; it climbs up only one side of the face, its meaning being: It was just a joke. That Kanye West didn’t take it as a joke isn’t really a surprise, even if we ignore the fact that he’s famously self-serious. Here he’d done an interview explaining how hurtful it is to have proved one’s ability and still be seen as inferior by rich white people, and a rich white person responded by infantilizing him.
…Kimmel may have just thought he was roasting another arrogant celebrity with his spoof; he almost certainly did, in fact. But looking at a black man’s assertion he’s been ignored because of his race and social class, and then recasting that man as a child for laughs, is always going to be an affront to many people of color in America, people who have long said, “something’s wrong here,” and been told: no, you’re just sensitive. You’re crazy. You’re acting like a baby.
In a society where there remains a racial double standard for celebrities, the reenactment obscures the line between remarking on an unexpected display of emotion and laughing at a black man. And it doesn’t help that sister company Fox News has a record for doing the latter.
Sherman addressed the interview on CNN, saying that he was still in competitive mode when he spoke to anchor Erin Andrews. “On the field, where we’re playing a very barbaric sport, you can do as you please,” he said. “If you catch me in a moment on the field when I’m still in that zone, when I’m still as competitive as I can be … then it’s not going to come out as articulate, as smart, as charismatic — because on the field I’m not all those things.”
In response to the racial slurs hurled at him, Sherman said, “For the people who did react that way and throw the racial slurs and things like that out there, it was really sad…I’m not out there beating on people or committing crimes or getting arrested or doing anything. I’m playing a football game at a high level. I got excited.”