What Thanksgiving Means to Me


Welcome to Tuesdays with Richard on Thursdays, a weekly multimedia series featuring Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Throughout the 2016 season, Richard provides an intimate glance at his life behind-the-scenes and on the field. 

For me, this Thanksgiving is particularly special because it’s the first one that my son, who’s almost two, will be able to really experience and understand what’s happening. I’m excited to teach him about family, and giving thanks, and giving back.

I’m just glad I’m not playing.

I don’t mean to be a downer, but playing on Thanksgiving Day isn’t exactly a treat.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and because I fundamentally disagree with the idea of football on Thursdays to begin with. (If you don’t already know my take on Thursday games, stay tuned to The Players’ Tribune. You’ll hear it soon.)

But if you think about it, you have three Thanksgiving Day games, which means there are three teams on the road. That’s three rosters of 53 men — plus coaching staffs, trainers, equipment guys, etc. — away from their families on a holiday. And even if you’re the home team, by the time you get back to your family, how much Thanksgiving is really left?

When we played on Thanksgiving night in 2014, we were on the road in San Francisco. Thank goodness we won, because we got some turkey on the field — that was the only way I was going to get turkey that day. My fiancée had cooked a bird back home in Seattle, and she tried to wait for me, but by the time I got home we couldn’t really enjoy it.

But I digress.

Like I said, I’m not trying to be a downer — that’s not what Thanksgiving is all about.

But the fact that I’m not playing this year is one of the reasons why I’m so excited about my son’s first real Thanksgiving. I have the opportunity to teach him about the importance of spending quality time with the people closest to him.

Sure, that means family. Family is the cornerstone of any major holiday. But Thanksgiving is also about the people close to you who are outside of your family — the other people in your life for whom you’re thankful.

This year, at our house, we’ll be hosting some of my Seahawks teammates who don’t have family in the Seattle area and can’t travel home because it’s a game week. We have to practice and prepare to head down to Tampa this weekend.

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

It’s important for me to show my son not only how I treat my family, but how I treat my peers and how we’re supposed to treat other people in general.

Through my foundation, we usually give out turkeys on Thanksgiving to families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a holiday dinner. This year, we shifted gears a bit, and we’re giving out Safeway gift cards.

Today, there are so many people who don’t even have a refrigerator to keep a turkey cool, or an oven in which to cook it. So it doesn’t make sense to give them a turkey. And the ultimate goal is to make sure that people can have a good meal on Thanksgiving and have presents under the tree on Christmas. So we figured, Why not give out gift cards?

That’s probably the most important thing I want to teach my son. Thanksgiving, at its heart, is such a selfless holiday. Yes, you’re supposed to look introspectively at the person you are and all you’ve accomplished, and you should think about the people around you who have helped you accomplish your goals, and you should celebrate those people.

But we can’t forget about context.

The reason you’re thankful for what you have is because there are people who are less fortunate than you. And when we think about what we are thankful for, we should also think about those who have less, and we should strive to bless those people and give them more to be thankful for.

Whether it’s for family, friends or complete strangers, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for you to not only be thankful, but for you to be the one for whom others are thankful.

We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have much. I would say that, in or neighborhood of Compton, California, my family was … in the lower-middle class.

But I had my family. I had my mom, my dad and my brother. I had so much to be thankful for that wasn’t material or superficial, and I learned to appreciate that at a young age.

That’s one of the things I plan on teaching my son this year, and every year after.

So today, as you’re reading this, I ask this of you: Close your laptops. Put your phones down. Stop reading this, and go spend time with your family. If you watch some football, appreciate what those guys out there are doing — sacrificing the very things you’re pledging your thanks for to entertain you.

And don’t just think about what you are thankful for. Try to be what somebody else is thankful for.

That’s what today is all about.

Happy Thanksgiving.