NFLRichard Sherman Gets Ready to Do Battle with the NFL
The outspoken Seahawks cornerback discusses labor issues in the NFL and how players will have to challenge the league.
Seahawks cornerback and Super Bowl XLVIII champion Richard Sherman isn't afraid to speak his mind. Whether it's trash talking opponents or picking apart Black Lives Matter, Sherman is unapologetic—and unflinching—when expressing his opinion. With another eventful NFL offseason in the books, GQ—with an assist from Bodyarmor—caught up with Sherman to talk labor issues in the NFL, how players can impact the next CBA (collective bargaining agreement), and what Roger Goodell needs to do to earn Sherman's trust.
GQ: What did you think of the NFL threatening the players named in the Al-Jazeera report with suspensions if they didn’t interview with the league?
Richard Sherman: It’s just one of those things. That’s the kind of relationship we have with our league. It’s not like the NBA and their relationship with their players, which is fantastic. The players support the league, the league supports the players. They love their commissioner, he makes great decisions and does a great job. We have more of a distasteful relationship and guys are treated accordingly. You get guys being harassed—we already get drug tested like criminals. And apparently that wasn’t enough for the guys named in the report. We get tested at least a couple times a month. Then you have to interview you guys who you already test a couple times a month, like you’re not getting the results. I think a lot of times they do it more for public perception even though Al-Jazeera went out and said it was a lie and there were false claims. The league does a lot of things for public perception more than anything.
What’s the first step Roger Goodell would have to take for you to trust him more?
I think it’s less Goodell. He doesn’t make a lot of decisions in terms of things that go on between the league and the players. But I think treating the players like people instead of like cattle. We’re a numbered, nameless, faceless entity to them. The moment they start treating us more like people instead of nameless, faceless entities then I think the relationship will get better. But it’s a bottom line league. They are savvy, cutthroat businessmen. And that’s how they treat us. We are employees of these businessmen. The best thing Goodell could do is make the relationship more amicable, reach out to the players, have conversations, show his personality. That would help some.
Aaron Rodgers said players are at fault for giving Goodell so much power because that was what was negotiated in the CBA. Do you see his power being a big issue for the union in the years ahead?
It’s a huge deal, and [Rodgers] is completely correct in that. If players want to change things, if they want to change how much power Goodell has, if they want to change guaranteed contracts, if they want to change the way they’re treated, if they want to change drug testing, if they want to change the fine system—which is incredibly ridiculous. We have a rookie, who is undrafted, who may not even make the team, getting fined $24,000 for a hit he couldn’t avoid. I don’t know if we’re going to take collections or what, because that kid is not going to be able to pay $24,000. He’s making $700 a game. You’re going to somehow get $24,000 from a kid who has no money?
Aaron is completely correct, and like Ramon Foster of the Steelers said, players who made their money need to be prepared for the necessary actions that we foresee when the CBA expires. Hopefully guys are more prepared this time, because a lot more guys are griping about the contract situation in comparison to the NBA and MLB, but guys need to remember those guys missed games. Those guys were willing to exercise their greatest leverage and their greatest power, which is their ability to miss games and to challenge their league. And that forces the league to act accordingly. Once we get on the same page and do the same thing we will regain that power and that leverage.
Is it surprising to you at all the league hasn’t budged on the drug policy when it comes to marijuana? Is it annoying to you?
Not at all. It’s illegal, federally illegal. I have no problem with the league’s policy on it. Everybody has a policy on marijuana and you have to adhere to it. But it is frustrating for some of the things—a lot of guys go through a considerable amount of pain. And you hear about all these side effects from the pharmaceutical drugs that we do take, you know, that I’m sure a lot of our owners have stakes in. You have guys taking stuff like Toradol just to get through games. That’s the equivalent of taking 13 Motrin, and it’s just terrible for guys. And the league is not policing that. They’re not keeping guys away from that. That’s where I become frustrated. I understand you being stringent on drugs that are illegal, but you also have to protect guys from pharmaceuticals.
Do you think the NFL’s top players will come together to take a more active role in the union moving forward?
I do see that change, I see guys taking a more active role. Because guys care about what’s happening and how they’re being treated, and how they’re being treated in comparison to other leagues. Guys need to take accountability for what they want. You can’t just asked for guaranteed contracts without sacrificing what’s necessary to get it.
What's your plan to keep your body healthy throughout the season?
I research different techniques for healing and keeping your body safe. Throughout the season you do anything you can to help your body not be so beat up. I go in the hyperbaric throughout the year. I’ve been working with Bodyarmor for years now. They’re great to work with. All these things you’re cognizant of during the off-season because you want to put the best things in your body and give yourself the best chance to perform.
Is the expectation within your team Super Bowl or bust? How much pressure do you guys put on yourselves?
We don’t ever put pressure on ourselves. It’s not something we consciously think about it. We want to win every game. We have high expectations but we wouldn’t consider it pressure. We just want to do everything we can to win every game. We hold ourselves to that standard. We are disappointed when we lose, we’re disappointed when we don’t win a Super Bowl, because that’s the ultimate goal.
What’s the happiest you’ve ever been playing football?
I’d say after we won our first NFC Championship [in the 2013 season.] It was such a fight, such a grind throughout the season. Obviously, the Super Bowl was less eventful, we were able to take control early. The [NFC Championship] was just a culmination of all the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. To know that we made it to the ultimate goal, to see guys come together and overcome the adversity that we did, I was incredibly blessed to be a part of it. I would say that would be my happiest moment.
Please, please take it easy on the Dolphins in the first game of the season.
[Laughs] All I can do is go out there and do my job.