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Richard Sherman and Athletes' Expectation of Privacy

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

In the late-night hours of July 13, 2021, Richard Sherman’s wife, Ashely Sherman, called the King County Sheriff’s Office out of concern for her husband. Eventually, Richard Sherman was arrested outside his in-laws’ home and was then booked at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle.

Sherman faces multiple charges, with suspicion of domestic violence underlying the charges. The reason for the domestic violence component of his charges is because he is related to the occupants of the residence where he was arrested; however, it should be clarified that nobody at the residence was ever harmed, and Sherman never entered the residence. When Ashely Sherman spoke to the media after her husband’s arrest, she stated, “ . . . he didn’t harm anybody” and “[m]y kids were not harmed in the incident. He’s a good person and this is not his character. We’re doing all right, just trying to get him out. I want people to know no one was injured.”

Sherman’s initial hearing took place on July 15. At that hearing, the judge released Sherman on his promise to return to court for subsequent proceedings. The judge stated, “I see Mr. Sherman is a pillar of this community. He is a business owner. He is a husband. He is a father.” This sort of statement from a judge is refreshing because it establishes a sense of humanity and dignity that was lost during the initial reporting on Sherman’s struggles off the field. The initial reporting painted Richard Sherman as a domestic violence perpetrator and a substance abuser that drove while intoxicated, but the reality is that the situation is a much deeper issue of a struggling man with mental health concerns that the media all but forgot about in preying on his downfall at the outset.

The initial reports failed to emphasize that he didn’t harm anyone or that his family was genuinely concerned about his mental health – instead he was depicted as a criminal because he was no longer seen as the famous idolized athlete that society and the media want him to be. Before the background of Sherman’s struggles came to light, he was viewed as a criminal through reports and first-hand Ring video surveillance that had zero surrounding context of what Sherman was going through and continues to go through. Eventually there were reports that expressed sympathy and put his arrest into context; however, that occurred much too late in the game only after those who knew him spoke out.

Richard Sherman is tremendous community member and family man, and for the media to disregard his struggles and his privacy in perpetuating the leaks of what should’ve been private videos was a difficult frenzy to observe. To me, this is a prime example of society willing to praise athletes when they’re winning super bowls and changing their communities but then letting those same athletes drown with cinder blocks as soon any personal struggle ensues. We routinely engage in a superficial idolization of athletes – rather we should be cognizant of their lives as real people with real problems and real struggles.

On an end note, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold domestic violence perpetrators responsible, but we should just keep mental health and privacy concerns in mind when we attempt to delve into the personal lives of athletes as we know nothing about their mental state or their private lives. We glorify athletes’ fame and accolades, yet we drag them through the scrutinous limelight when they have any slip up and prey upon their downfall in a way that demonstrates a lack of sympathy for someone who’s struggling. We can – and should – do better in how we discuss athletes’ private lives and their personal struggles.

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