What Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman Teach Us About Respectability & Black Masculinity

I don’t follow football, unless its my hometown favorites, The St.Louis Rams and since they haven’t won in years I only go to SuperBowl parties for the food and halftime show. This year however,  when asked who I was rooting for 2015 NFL Super Bowl XLIX, I immediately responded with a resounding, “Seahawks ALL THE WAY!”

I’ve watched Richard Sherman over the last year, and Marshawn Lynch and his refusal to answer questions, with his now infamous, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” which leaves mainstream media either scratching their heads or unamused at their “antics” but I revel in this. In their ability to not be boxed in by an organization that attemtps to control who they are on and off the field. They are taking back their narrative, and speaking how they want, when they want.

TED S. WARREN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Both men are 20-something athletes whose unapologetic performances of black masculinity and resistance have left mainstream media perplexed and exasperated.  Both men’s gender presentations fuel the stereotypic imaginations of folk who find black men intimidating and terrifying, while wielding enough charm and cockiness to make them fascinating and mysterious.  With dark-skin, tattoos, and dreadlocks, both men simultaneously trouble race and gender politics by participating in a system that profits from them (and their bodies), while profiting them (and making them millionaires).  They are assumed to be pawns but have proven to be more clever than onlookers originally thought.  Both men have successfully flipped the script on notions of one-dimensional black masculinity and what respectability, in the context of black masculinity, looks like.

Their passion for the game of football and their confidence in their abilities make them fun to watch and even more endearing to listen to, but class standing aside, outside of the context of professional sports, they are read like any other black man without a fresh fade, collar shirt, and propensity to codeswitch.  Sherman and Lynch represent a particular type of black maleness and masculinity that competes with the safety of pretty boy intellectuals whose masculinity is tempered by their demeanor.  White folk don’t know if they should find them endearing or threatening.

Read more at CrunkFeministCollective.com

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