"I was misquoted!" has become a key line of defense for many athletes once they realize they've said something that's going to cause a stir, and sometimes, they even appear to be right. That doesn't seem to be the case with oft-controversial Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, though. Sherman got himself into a bit of trouble this week, as his Tuesday appearance at Cambridge Elementary School in Surrey, B.C. to hand out NFL Play 60 apparel and a technology grant (part of NFL Canada's Take A NFL Player To School initiative) resulted in him dispensing a controversial quote as well. However, unlike most cases where a quote comes into dispute, there's solid evidence that Sherman actually said it.
Long-time Vancouver Sun sports reporter Mike Beamish was in attendance at the event, and asked Sherman about the suspension for Adderall he successfully challenged last year; Beamish quoted Sherman as saying "About half the league takes it" (as a closing note in a story that focused on Sherman's appearance at the school), and that quote quickly spread like wildfire across NFL blogs and other media outlets. Sherman predictably responded on NFL Network's NFL AM Thursday, saying he didn't make the comment and accusing Beamish of making it up to gain attention:
"First off, I didn’t say that," Sherman said. “It’s just another case of these writers trying to gain a little notoriety in an interview. What I said was there’s a bunch of guys on prescription for Adderall. I’ve never seen people get prescribed a performance-enhancing drug, you know what I mean?....They go so crazy when guys test positive for it, but a bunch of guys have prescriptions for it, so it’s kind of misleading.”
In most cases, that's usually where a story like this one ends; the journalists involved stick by their reporting, the player says they were misquoted or taken out of context, and fans decide for themselves who's to be believed. The Sun did one better, though. Sun videographer Mike Bell was filming the Sherman interview, and sports editor Scott Brown smartly posted that video online with a new story denouncing Sherman's claims.
Brown also includes a transcript of the conversation and some further comments from Beamish, who said he saw Sherman's 50 percent number as a bit of hyperbole, but did think Sherman was trying to diminish the issue:
“Hyperbole is what it was. I don't think he literally meant that 50 percent of NFL players use Adderall. But a lot of them do use it, Sherman implied,” Beamish said Thursday. “It was an attempt, however, to minimize the severity of the issue.”
From this corner, the Sun deserves a lot of credit for how they handled this. A high-profile attack on the credibility of their paper and their reporters like the one Sherman launched Thursday is never easy to take, but they handled it very professionally, defending their reporting (and proving it) but not personally attacking Sherman. This also speaks to the value of getting interviews on tape: if an athlete or coach suddenly doesn't want to be associated with a quote they made, it's a lot harder for them to get out from under it if you have solid proof they said it. The next time Sherman or another athlete wants to change his story after the fact, he'd be well-advised to make sure there isn't already footage of what he actually said.