Return to Transcripts main page


Richard Sherman Opens Up abut Postgame Rant; Outgoing NBA Commissioner Reflects on Career

Aired January 24, 2014 - 22:30   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight, on UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS, unexpected. You saw his loud side.

RICHARD SHERMAN, CORNERBACK, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: That's the result you're going to get.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, you'll meet the other side of Super Bowl bound Richard Sherman.

SHERMAN: How almost oxymoronic, you know, that a kid from Compton is going to Stanford?

ANNOUNCER: Unmasked. After a record-breaking 30 years, NBA commissioner David Stern has fined mark Cuban for the last time as he turns the job over to Adam Silver.

RACHEL NICHOLS, HOST: Mark Cuban has been doing nothing but singing your praises.

DAVID STERN, OUTGOING NBA COMMISSIONER: That's because he's sharpening his knives for Adam.


NICHOLS: Welcome to UNGUARDED. We have a blockbuster show tonight with two rare interviews. But we start with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

Now Sherman should be known for making the game-saving play to send Seattle to next week's Super Bowl. But instead, his postgame outburst, proclaiming his own greatness and criticizing Niners receiver Michael Crabtree, well, that's what echoed well beyond the sports world.

I was the first to sit down with Sherman after that game. And in this CNN exclusive, what I found was a man whose life story adds up to so much more than the sum of those very loud words.


NICHOLS: Richard Sherman is about to play in the Super Bowl. How does that sound? SHERMAN: It sounds -- it sounds mind-blowing. It really does. It sounds like something that you only dream about as a small kid. You're out in your yard, throwing the ball with your brother, saying man, three seconds left in the Super Bowl, for the game winner, three, two, one, catch the football. And you know, you never really think you're going to be in a situation where you get to just do it.

NICHOLS: How do you expect to perform in the moment now that you finally have your chance?

SHERMAN: I expect to perform well. Because once you get out on the football field, everything goes away. Right after the kickoff, you know, you hear the roar of the crowd. The ball is kicked and the nerves are gone.

NICHOLS: I want to go back to the beginning of the Richard Sherman story. You grew up in Compton, and you grew up in one of the most gang-riddled eras of Compton. I know that your dad was the victim of a drive-by. He still has a scar on his chest from the bullets. You have a best friend growing up that is now dead.

What was it like for you, because you were a voracious reader. You liked school; you were a good student. And that was sometimes at odds with some of the people around you.

SHERMAN: I've always been a square, a nerd, kind of odd, kind of awkward. Still am to this day. People just think I'm just cooler because I play football.

NICHOLS: I'm trying to put together the pieces that shaped you through your life.


NICHOLS: How old were you when you first discovered the old films of Muhammad Ali?

SHERMAN: Man, shoot, maybe 7 or 8. He was just so clever, so well-spoken, so articulate, so off-the-cuff, so much different than everybody else in the world.

It takes a different kind of person to be able to turn that switch on and off and to be able to step into the ring or step on the field and be that intense and incredible focused and kind of, I guess, angry human being that you have to be, to be successful in those -- in those atmospheres.

NICHOLS: You're a prime example of that. How do you do it?

SHERMAN: You just -- you have to have that switch. You take it off, you're totally different. If you catch me in the moment, on the field when I'm still in that zone, when I'm still as competitive as I can be, again, it's not going to come out as articulate, as smart. And that's why sometimes it crashes and doesn't go all so well. I'm the best corner in the game! When you pair me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me!

ERIN ANDREWS, FOX SPORTS: Who was talking about you?

SHERMAN: Crabtree. Don't you open your mouth about the best!

NICHOLS: I do want to ask you about what happened. There was the moment on the field when you made the play. There's the choke sign. There's the interview on the field postgame. Then there's the press conference.

SHERMAN: I was making sure everybody knew that Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. Mediocre.

NICHOLS: What do you regret about all that, what do you not regret about all that?

SHERMAN: Well, there isn't much about it I regret. Mostly, I regret the -- I guess the storm afterwards. The way it was covered, the way it was perceived and the attention that it took away from the fantastic performances of my teammates, you know. And that being the only part of it I regret, the way it's covered.

It is what it is. What I said is what I said. I probably shouldn't have attacked another person. You know, I don't mean that attack. And that was immature, and I probably shouldn't have done that. I regret doing that.

But I just felt like my teammates deserved better, and I, you know, have to apologize to them and I have.


NICHOLS: Sherman's teammates have, in turn, been extremely supportive, and so have other athletes from LeBron James to Hank Aaron. And here on UNGUARDED, we have a lot more coming up from Richard Sherman, including the background behind his feud with San Francisco's Michael Crabtree. You won't want to miss it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's picked off in the end zone!



NICHOLS: I'm Rachel Nichols and welcome back to UNGUARDED.

You know, in the past few days, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has stirred up the national discussion on sportsmanship, ego and, yes, racism. Sherman himself has some fascinating insight into all those conversations. But first, I asked him exactly why he was so angry at Niners receiver Michael Crabtree. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: Your brother has said that Michael Crabtree was rude to you at an event this past summer, a charity event, that he shunned you and he wouldn't talk to you. And you said at the time, "All right, I'm going to show him on the field." Is that the background of all this?

SHERMAN: That's the short version.

NICHOLS: Is that the clean version?

SHERMAN: We're going to keep it clean. You know...

NICHOLS: Did it get nastier than that?

SHERMAN: We're going to keep it clean.


SHERMAN: And I said I would keep it on the field. On the field, we're playing a very barbaric sport, and that's when I take all my animosity and all my anger and all my frustration out on the field.

NICHOLS: We've seen Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens and Mark Scott, and you can go much further back. Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali. We've seen guys get excited in the moment and make these pronouncements. But interestingly, so much about what happened to you was the reaction afterward, the way it mushroomed, and the fact that race so quickly became involved here.

SHERMAN: Yes, you know, it was really -- it was really mindboggling; it was really sad, especially that close to Martin Luther King Day. You're not judging a guy -- 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.

And I got excited. You know, I maybe said some things that offended some people, which is understandable. I didn't curse anybody. You know, I try not to be vulgar. I didn't want to be off- putting to anybody, and I apologize to people who were off-put by it.

But what I did was within the lines of a football field. What they did was in actual reality. They showed their true character. That -- those were real comments, not in a moment. They had time to think about it. They were sitting at a computer, and they expressed themselves in a true way. And I thought society had moved past that.

NICHOLS: We have a black president. We like to think that, as a country, things have changed. And of course, to some degree they have. But what did you learn about the state of race in this country just from the few days after that game?

SHERMAN: Well, I've learned we haven't come as far as I thought we had come. I did my job effectively, and afterwards they interviewed me, and I had an interview. Regardless of how that interview goes, it doesn't give you the right to say the things they were saying. And that's the part that's sad.

NICHOLS: Sociologists have the theory that when people just revert to racial insults, they're uncomfortable with you, and therefore, they're trying to put you in your place.

SHERMAN: You know, I think it used to be the "N" word. Now they're using "thug" instead of the "N" word. And as a -- as a, you know, more accepted way of saying it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about your reputation as a thug?

SHERMAN: I don't have that reputation.

And it's still sad, man, because what was thug about what I did? I didn't go talking about I'm going to fight the guy after the game. I'm not -- I'm not doing anything outrageous. This doesn't change my educational background; this doesn't change the community service. And it's really remarkable how quickly people went there, how quickly people were passing judgment.

NICHOLS: You've made a point in your life to move away from things like -- you had the opportunity to go either direction.

SHERMAN: Exactly. I think people -- people like with Muhammad Ali and the backlash that he got, people were uncomfortable with not being able to expect things, not being able to control things, not being able to put people in boxes and them stay in those boxes.

You know, maybe I'm -- maybe I'm a kid from the inner city that they wish wouldn't have gotten out of the inner city and express themselves in this way. Maybe that makes people uncomfortable. Maybe that -- people don't like to see a success story like that. Maybe that's what it is. I really couldn't tell.


SHERMAN: I'm guessing there are not a lot of people who would call Richard Sherman a thug after hearing that.

We're going to have much more from Sherman after this break, including what part of becoming an NFL player he says took a chisel to his heart.

And later in the show, a rare conversation with David Stern. He's preparing to step down from his three-decade run as NBA commissioner.


STERN: You do what you have to do. Almost certain that there will be some crisis.



NICHOLS: Welcome back to UNGUARDED, where we've been talking to Richard Sherman.

After the NFC championship game, Sherman managed in just 20 seconds to shake up our collective ideas of sportsmanship and stereotypes. But in this exclusive interview with CNN, Sherman reveals the long and unconventional path that got him to that postgame interview. A path with him saying no to the gangs that crowded his Compton, Los Angeles, neighborhood.


NICHOLS: You did have the choice to go either way early on. Did you consciously think when you were a kid, did you think, "I can join a gang, or I can go in this direction"? Did you mull it over?

SHERMAN: There was always that temptation; there was always that temptation there. Well, this guy has the nice car. He has -- you know, he has everything you want. He gets a lot of the girls, you know. He has everything that you think you want to attain. And he's doing this, so why -- why wouldn't I do it?

But I also started to see the bigger picture, and I started to understand that, well, if I find a way to get myself into a college, then I have a chance to make some money, to accomplish all my dreams.

NICHOLS: You were second in your class in high school. You were recruited by USC, which at the time, was the biggest thing going in college football, but you were also recruited by Stanford, and you picked Stanford.


NICHOLS: Was that about more than just football?

SHERMAN: It was definitely about more than just football. Because how -- how almost oxymoronic does it sound that a kid from Compton is going to Stanford? My initial thought was to send a message to the kids to show, look at what hard work can get you. I wanted to show them anything is possible.

NICHOLS: You didn't just go to Stanford, by the way. You graduated and you started working on your masters.

SHERMAN: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the 2011 NFL draft.

NICHOLS: All right. So draft day, 24th corner picked, fifth round. And you're famous for being able to list all 23 corners picked before you. What did it feel like that day to you?

SHERMAN: Well, I mean, you know, it was like your heart's breaking with every pick, with every pick. The first round was fine. But the second day, you're watching the draft, and you're like, it was like someone just had a chisel to your heart with a hammer. Like pick after pick after pick, my name isn't called, you know, no news, nobody has called me, "Oh, we're thinking about picking you in the next round."

NICHOLS: Do you still carry that experience with you?

SHERMAN: I definitely do. I carry it with me every day. Then your name finally gets called and everybody is excited. Everybody is, you know, hugging you and happy. But in the back of my mind, I'm frustrated. I'm disrespected.

NICHOLS: Do you have to be a little bit brash if you are a fifth rounder, if you are a defensive pick to get in the position of getting those endorsements to get the attention for your charity work?

SHERMAN: I haven't seen it done any other way. Truthfully, a lot of quite -- there have been a lot of quiet players, a lot of quiet players who've given total right answers, who've done everything, who played at an incredibly high level that you couldn't name, that you -- that you couldn't name, that you've never seen on TV, that are having a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame because they weren't that brash, because they weren't that vocal. But that's just how the world is.

NICHOLS: Your teammate, Kam Chancellor, told "Sports Illustrated," I used to tell him to quiet down, but then I saw the results.

SHERMAN: You need to have a dogged (ph) mentality. You have to be able to do whatever it takes to beat the man across from you. And if you lose confidence, then that's when you have a really, really bad game and you can't do anything. If I give up a touchdown, that almost arrogance allows me to forget that play.

NICHOLS: If you win the Super Bowl, and someone sticks a microphone in your face right afterward in the moment and it's crazy -- and by the way, they will -- what are you going to say this time?

SHERMAN: I'm going to Disneyland, and I hope it doesn't offend anybody and they don't go after my life.

NICHOLS: I mean, are you going to be more careful?

SHERMAN: No, no, I'm not going to be more careful. I am who I am. You know, I can't be anybody else. I don't know how to be anybody else. And I wasn't raised to be anybody else.

I don't think I'm a bad person, and I never have cruel intentions. Off the field. But you can't -- you know, you've got to be who you are. That's what has gotten us here, and if it's worked this long, see if it will work again.


NICHOLS: For those still unsure that Richard Sherman knows exactly what he's doing, consider this: His agent tells CNN that since Sunday, his endorsement offers have only increased and that he expects Sherman to earn $5 million from sponsors this off-season. Now stay with us, because after the break, we're going to change gears. NBA commissioner David Stern offers a rare glimpse into his thinking as he steps down from one of the most powerful jobs in sports.


NICHOLS Welcome back. I'm Rachel Nichols.

There are few people in sports as polarizing as NBA commissioner David Stern. Depending on what city he's in, he's either loudly booed by tens of thousands or cheered as a conquering hero. But no matter what you think of him, you can't argue the game of basketball has been profoundly changed by his three decades on the job. And as he prepares to step down next week, he sat down with us.


STERN: Hakim Olajuwon.

NICHOLS: So what does it feel like to leave a job you've had for 30 years?

STERN: Actually, it feels very good, because I am watching my colleagues who have sort of grown up on my watch. They're all ready to go on to bigger and better things under Adam's leadership.

NICHOLS: I hear as you've been ready to leave, you've been going through your office giving away some things?

STERN: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. The only thing I'm leaving for Adam is a large life-like poster of me.

NICHOLS: I think that's wise.

STERN: It's actually not a poster; it's a cutout. And I thought I would just leave it standing.

NICHOLS: Looking over his shoulder maybe?

STERN: Yes. I may make a few of them, so I'll place them around the office.

NICHOLS: What are you most proud of in your time as commissioner?

STERN: I'm most proud that my colleagues and I understand there's a greater purpose that can be served by our sport. And we understand that sports has a way of crystallizing discussion about issues. The last time you and I interacted, it was about a visit to Korea.

NICHOLS: How do you think a group of former NBA players, a number of guys, ended up going over and say that they don't really realize what they were doing or what they were getting themselves into? STERN: They were blinded by the payday. I don't know what else to say or how directly to say it.

But nevertheless, the dialogue around that probably brought more people to understand that this is a repressive regime that starves, tortures, incarcerates its own citizens all at the same time it has the fourth largest standing army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since Donaghy spoke to the feds...

NICHOLS: It is pretty remarkable, when you look back even over the last decade, it was nearly seven years ago that Tim Donaghy was arrested and convicted on federal charges for gambling on games he was officiating. And it seemed like such a critical blow at the time. When you look back on that now?

STERN: We have had enormous numbers of critical blows. In 1991, when Magic announced that he was HIV positive, that was a potentially critical blow, because no one knew how to deal with that.

MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA STAR: Because of the HIV virus that I have obtained, I will have to retire from the Lakers.

STERN: When Ron Artest went into the stands, that was a critical blow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There goes Artest after somebody in the stands.

STERN: When Gilbert Arenas misbehaved in the locker room, when Latrell Sprewell did what he did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NBA star Latrell Sprewell made a public apology yesterday for attacking Golden State Warrior coach P.J. Carlesimo and threatening to kill him.

STERN: We always, you know, gather in and protect our league and our players.

NICHOLS: How have you managed it, though? As you said, there's been a bunch.

STERN: You just get up in the morning, and you do what you have to do. And you get ready to keep growing, almost certain that there will be some crisis, because the morning newspaper always brings something new and interesting.

NICHOLS: Now, you guys haven't had to deal with a major steroid or PED scandal. Is that because players in your leagues really aren't using those kinds of drugs or the testing just isn't stringent enough?

STERN: Our testing is the most stringent than all of sports.

NICHOLS: Your testing is more stringent than baseball or the Olympics? STERN: It's probably -- it's probably the same as. I mean, it's -- we got -- we take our lists from the Olympics. I'm not going to make any epic "pronunciamentos" here, but I like to think our players have determined that this is not a substance or a group of substances that are going to enhance their play, and it's not worth the risks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Off the scoreboard, off the bank board, no rim.

NICHOLS: You're always going to be associated with so many big stars around the NBA. Magic Johnson, Larry, Michael Jordan. And you knew Michael so well. And of course, you're aware, when he stepped away from basketball to play baseball, the pervasive rumor was that you had asked him to do that because of his gambling, and you've denied that so many times.

STERN: The media are a bunch of sheep, you know? Some person on a Sunday morning sports show said, "I would like to have been in David Stern's living room when X, when Michael was there." And I was in my living room but Michael wasn't, and somehow it's too much fun to -- just to keep asking.

NICHOLS: It's not just players; you've had colorful relationships with owners, as well. And I've got to say that Mark Cuban in these past couple months has been doing nothing but singing your praises.

STERN: Well, that's because he's sharpening his knives for Adam.

NICHOLS: I mean, isn't he, though?

STERN: We ended into a nonaggression pact.


STERN: I said, "Mark, you know, why don't you just chill? We'll set up Adam together, and you'll go after him."

NICHOLS: Right. I mean, you've fined Mark Cuban more than most people's salaries, and yet you've won him over. How did you do that?

STERN: I haven't won him over, didn't win Mark over, but he knows that I'm doing my job and, in fact, I think he relishes the fining.

NICHOLS: Well, the NBA has had remarkable expansion under your watch: 200 countries, 47 languages. And et we've never seen you shoot a basketball. I was trying to go through footage and find you at the free-throw line or something.

STERN: Yes. I didn't want to embarrass our players, because hitting so many from the free-throw line in a row...

NICHOLS: Yes, that would have been...

STERN: ... would have put too much pressure on them. NICHOLS: Are you a player? Are you a good player?

STERN: I used to be. I have no cartilage now. I was never a good player.

NICHOLS: Well, now you'll have a lot more time to work on your game.

STERN: I don't think so. I think that golf is going to be the new game.


NICHOLS: I'm not sure I want to see David swing a golf club any more than I want to see him shoot a basketball. But hey, we certainly wish him the best.

All right. That's it for us this week. But you can follow me on twitter, like us on Facebook, or visit us on the Web at And we'll see you next Friday night with a special Super Bowl edition of UNGUARDED, where the end of the game is the start of the story. Good night.