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Originally published January 31, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Page modified January 31, 2014 at 8:56 PM

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Jesse Jackson discusses race in sports — and makes his Super Bowl pick

“Peyton Manning has played most of the season in a clean uniform. If anyone can figure out a way to get to him, Pete Carroll can.” So says the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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NEW YORK — Here’s a name to add to the list of those who think the underdog Seahawks will win Super Bowl XLVIII: Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“Peyton Manning has played most of the season in a clean uniform,” Jackson said in New York. “If anyone can figure out a way to get to him, Pete Carroll can.”

Jackson spoke for 20 minutes with Seattle Times staffers at a Manhattan hotel, touching on his impressions of the Seahawks and Broncos, about the value of sports and the role it has played in civil rights and race relations.

“The beauty of sports is that once the game kicks off, you choose uniform color, not skin color,” said Jackson, who played quarterback his freshman year at the historically black North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College.

The longtime civil-rights leader said many young men’s and women’s earliest experiences working with people of other races has come through athletics.

But there also are racial overtones to facets of sports, he said, touching on the continuing controversy over Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s much talked-about rant following his game-winning tip of a pass in the NFC title game.

Jackson said he agreed with Sherman that those who said the incident made Sherman appear to be a “thug” might be using the term as a racial slur. “Guys talking trash on the field is so normal,” Jackson said.

Asked if “thug” could be the new “n-word,” Jackson said, “Yes, because it’s so selectively applied.”

“Richard Sherman has another statement to make — on the field,” he said.

Jackson said he admires Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson not just for his athletic skills, but for his poise, his character and demeanor.

“You could take him home with you,” Jackson said. “A lot of guys who can score touchdowns aren’t necessarily men you would take home with you, race notwithstanding.”

Jackson said he hasn’t seen many Seahawk games but was at a December 2012 game in Chicago that Seattle won 23-17.

“They ran the Bears to death, and that upset me,” Jackson said, “because I’m a Bears fan.”

Jack Broom: or 206-464-2222

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