by Dr. Boyce Watkins
In the run up to the Super Bowl, one name that has been on the tips of a lot of tongues has been “Richard Sherman.” Sherman is the outspoken cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks who boldly proclaimed that he’s the best cornerback in the league after the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Sherman’s strong words on camera sparked a nation-wide debate over what does and does not make a thug. The debate appears to have been won by those who understand that most thugs don’t go to Stanford and earn a 3.7 GPA. In fact, the conclusion appears to be that Sherman is not only the anti-thug, he is actually an extraordinary human-being.
But what is often missing in conversation about great men like Richard Sherman are the parents who invest in him. Just like assets in a portfolio, children are an investment that will either grow if you have been making consistent contributions or diminish in value to society if you don’t plant the necessary seeds.
One person who has consistently invested in Sherman is his father, Kevin. According to Business Insider, Kevin has worked as a sanitation worker in the city of Compton, California for the last 26 years. Even after his son started earning millions in the NFL, Richard’s father continued to get up early in the morning and do an honest day’s work, rising at 3:45 am in order to do this job.
“The only goal for my son was education, so that he got more education than I got,” he told NFL Films.
People have often expected Kevin to turn to his son to pay his bills. Quite a few NBA and NFL players are expected to provide for family members when they make it big, even if they are healthy adults fully capable of providing for themselves. But Sherman gives very logical, ethical and financial reasons for not choosing to live off of his son.
“People say, ‘Let your son take care of you.’ Yeah, but I’ve got a few years left until I retire. Why would I mess up my own retirement? Why should my son have to foot everything? I have a medical plan that will cover me. Why should my son have to pay my medical bills? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Kevin lost his right eye in a go-cart explosion that occurred when he was 14-years old. Richard’s mother Beverly works with disabled children in the inner city. Behind every accomplished man or woman, there is typically a great mother, a great father or both. In this case, it appears that both his mother and his father worked together to build Richard Sherman into the admirable human being that he is today.
Invest in your kids and shape them before the world shapes them for you.
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:
1) There is a value to the spirit that comes from working every day. While Kevin Sherman could have given up daily work to live the so-called good life with his son, his decision to continue working and maintain his dignity sets a strong example for his son and also makes him feel better as a man. As heads of household and leaders in our communities, black men must maintain our dignity at all costs and not allow the world to strip it away: It makes women and our children respect us.
2) Kevin’s remark about ensuring this his son had a better education than he had speaks volumes about how he took Kevin’s athletic ability in stride. You see, great athletes like Kevin Sherman are identified and kidnapped by little league football programs at an early age. Many of them are skipped through school with little academic pressure and sucked into a culture which trains them to give up nearly all educational opportunities for the sake of catching a football. In my 20 years of teaching at the college level, I’ve seen countless athletes who could memorize complex offensive and defensive formations, but couldn’t spell the word “ignorant.”
For 99.5% of these men, their investments in athletic success never pay off, and after a couple of years playing college sports, many of them are dropped off by these universities to the same hoods that they came from without much education to show for their journey. It was Kevin’s priority system that he instilled in his son at an early age which allowed Richard to rise above these destructive influences to give him an opportunity to become an athletic spokesman to the world.
3) Kevin Sherman’s decision not to live off of his son was also intelligent for simple financial reasons. The average NFL career is only three or four years, maybe six or seven if you’re as good as Kevin. Most NFL athletes don’t earn enough money to live for the rest of their lives, and the brightest players are leaving early due to the rapid increase in severe brain damage that can come from mashing your head into 300-pound men at rapid speeds. Many former NFL players are developing Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 40 and this untold tragedy is what has led President Barack Obama to state that if he had a son, he would never let his son play football. So, if you do let your son play the sport, you may want to keep his career span as short as possible.
Kevin Sherman proves that you don’t have to make a lot of money in order to be a wealthy man. His contribution to the black community is priceless.