Is Excessive Trash Talking in the NFL Ruining the Game?

FIRST, before you talk about some classless behavior in the NFL, we need to address the elephant in the room. After Seattle Seahawk’s victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship, Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seahawks engaged in some loud and controversial behavior. As a result, there was an uproar in the media, especially the social media. Many comments referred to him as a thug. Even though I’m not condoning name calling, I think it’s useful to define that term before we talk about this subject in further detail. 

Therefore, some definitions of a THUG.

  • A violent person, ruffian, hooligan, vandal, gangster, villain, criminal. Synonyms may include tough, bruiser, hardman, goon, heavy, enforcer, Hired guns.
  • Mob boss regularly sent his thugs after people who were slow to pay their debts…That has been used to describe Mafia activity.
  • Others have described this term as someone who is going through struggles, has gone through struggles, and continues to live day by day with nothing to live for.


Jason was a guest on PTI (Pardon the Interruption) this week and he suggests defensive players in the NFL (like Richard Sherman) have to act that way to be effective on the field. You mean, according to Mr. Whitlock, every chance a defensive player has, he needs to play and act with that mentality – meaning trash talking and getting in your opponents’ face whenever the opportunity? I don’t quite see it that way. If you have the skills and physical aptitude to play a particular position in the NFL, you can be successful. Yes, you need to be focused, tough and have somewhat of a mean streak but that doesn’t mean you need to engage in classless or ruthless behavior. When I mention classless, I’m not saying eliminate all the fun or antics in the NFL. Generally, this questionable behavior may include “trash talking” or to get in your opponent’s face before or after most plays. Why can’t most NFL players simply celebrate with their teammates after a quarterback sack, an interception or pick-six or after making a outstanding defensive play? After a player has made a great play, use good judgement and sportsmanship and walk back to the huddle for a quick celebration with your teammates or to the sidelines.   


After Richard Sherman’s rant, I read on the Internet and heard on TV that many African-Americans were suggesting that those referring Mr. Sherman as a thug is a nice way of calling him the ‘N’ word. I would never name call nor would I use such a narrow description of that word (please see definitions above). I don’t get this association although I’m not within that sub-culture. Perhaps many of these individuals are quite sensitive about certain words and their meaning. Frequently, when certain “hot terms” are used to describe the African-American culture from outside their culture, their initial reaction may be to take offense to that term or consider it a slur without always knowing or understanding the full context.

Look, perhaps in the inner city, in predominately black neighborhoods, thug strictly applies to young African-Americans engaged in illegal or gangster behavior. Although this term means different things in different demographics. For example, a thug to someone over the age of 50 or outside of the poor inner city may mean how it’s defined earlier in my article. For example, extending this discussion to politics, Vladimir Putin or Kim J0ng-Un would fall into this category. Having said that, the last I checked, these two leaders did not originate from the inner city of America.  In addition, for those who have a more liberal interpretation of this term, this type of behavior could apply to any creed, race, or gender and is not unique to the inner city of black sub-culture.   


So some commentators say Sherman knew what he was doing and he’s making a name for himself at whose expense? Some of whom may condone his way of getting publicity. What kind of example is he setting for those young people who are watching his every move he makes, on and off the field? In other words, he can engage in frequent trash talking on almost every play and engage in loud, abrasive and classless behavior and it’s OK as long as he’s within the rules? Perhaps this is an indictment of American culture? What can help build your brand? Push the boundaries as much as you can – besides Sherman, think of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber to name just a few. You can be crazy, out of control or risque and predictably these deviant or illegal behaviors may improve your brand and marketing opportunities. Perhaps I’m old school to not condone that approach in the attempt of becoming famous.


At the risk of being redundant, I think the game has really changed over the last 10 years or so – maybe even longer. It seems to me, there’s so much more confrontation after each play between the opposing sides. Not always but often, one player is in the face of another. Often, referees are very slow to get involved. Often, referees don’t call over certain players to warn them to “knock it off,” next time this occurs, I’ll give you an unsportsmanlike conduct. (To digress, look how the referees in the Barclays Premier League handles things where they will talk to players about a rough foul and eventually the yellow card will be engaged). There’s no reason why this approach couldn’t be used in the NFL.

According to Wiki Answers, 70% of all NFL players are African-American. Perhaps 20 years ago, we had many fewer African-American players in the pro ranks with a lot less confrontational verbal abuse before and after many plays, especially between cornerbacks/safeties and wide receivers. It may not be getting worse but it’s certainly not getting better. I won’t say that white players don’t “trash talk,” it just doesn’t seem to be a trait that many white players exhibit. I love the intensity and athleticism of black NFL athletes, many of whom are among the greatest athletes of their generation but having said that, from my experience of watching NFL football for about 45 years, the game is losing its appeal with such behavior and repeated confrontational style. Why not, do what you’re paid to do, quickly celebrate with your team and get back to the point of making another good play. This “trash talking” phenomenon might be the beginning of the end in terms of my love affair for the NFL. Will this issue receive close scrutiny and possible change during the NFL post Super Bowl meetings? I can only hope the NFL doesn’t just look at the bottom line without objectively evaluating the state of the game.

Perhaps the NFL could be innovative and proactive and survey fans (customers) on a regular basis to get their thoughts about the state of the game and the NFL on TV? I’m sure there are a lot of loyal and casual fans who would love to be heard and of course, publish the results. Would that transparency be great. That approach could set a standard on how much this organization cares about their customers. I’m thinking this approach would indeed be customer centric!


Seattle is a great town with an amazing football team and at the same time, they have more swagger and self-assuredness than almost any other NFL team. In my opinion, many NFL fans would love to root for a team and city who has not once relished in the glory of earning the Lombardi trophy. Because the team from the Emerald city doesn’t generate the warm and fuzzy from dedicated and casual fans, will many turn away and root for the team from the Mile High city?