Allen Kim

Banks Dishes On Old School Starter Jackets And Trash Talk

Created on Jan. 27, 2014 2:32 PM EST

The folks at Iconix Brand, parent company of Starter, were kind enough to invite us to join them for a special event at the Starter Clubhouse pop up shop located on 235 West 46th street in Manhattan right inside the Paramount Hotel in Times Square. Carl Banks, the legendary linebacker that played a pivotal role in helping the New York Giants win two Super Bowls (XXI, XXV), sat down to speak with about his role in reviving the Starter brand while sharing his thoughts on Super Bowl XLVIII, Peyton Manning and Richard Sherman, the most polarizing figure in sports right now.

“Starter is probably the most iconic brand in sports prior to Jordan,” Banks said. “It was Jordan before there was Jordan, and I had the opportunity to relaunch it. There’s an emotional connection for me because I was one of their first athletes to endorse the brand as a player. When I found out that it was available — to have the opportunity to bring it back to the market and all the leagues embraced it — I couldn’t hesitate and had to do it.

“Looking for opportunities to grow my business, we started doing some limited edition jackets, and we spoke to our partners at Iconix about bringing back this Beverly Hills Cop jacket and then the Coming to America pack. In the Coming to America pack, I think it was Eddie Murphy had the Jets satin jacket on and Arsenio had the Mets on. So, I’m like, ‘OK, I want to do this.’ So, we talked to our partners at Iconix, who owns the Starter brand, and let’s see if we can bring this back in sports just for this one little capsule. We thought it would be cool because we would get the chance to put the Starter logo on the suite. And then, as I’m kind of negotiating that deal, my other son in the back of the room shows me like this whole vintage page of a website of just Starter jackets. And he’s like, ‘When are you guys going to start doing these jackets? These are really cool.’ At that point it kind of became confirmation that we should really roll it out in a big way, and so we found a really good partner in Sports Authority to launch the brand with. The rest is, as we say, ongoing history.”

Starter’s base of operations is right in the heart of New York City, and it’s fitting that they’re making their push here and now with the biggest American sporting event of the year taking place just a few miles away in northern New Jersey. Whether or not you had a Starter satin jacket or pullover from back in the day, if you’re in the area, it is well worth your time to check out the Starter Clubhouse and see how one of the most legendary brands in sports history is staging their comeback with the Super Bowl serving as their backdrop.

Banks, having played in two Super Bowls, reminisced about the hours leading up to the game. He said, “I remember vividly the two that I was in. Your body takes on a life of its own. It becomes football, but it’s still kind of like this is a little different than anything I’ve ever done before. I may have woken up every hour on the hour until the wakeup call came, and then you get to the game and you’re still not tired. I’m dreaming of being the defensive player of the game, or I’m dreaming of making an interception. It’s a different experience, and you know, the beauty of the Super Bowl is that not everyone has them. It’s an elite club.”

When asked for his pick to win the Super Bowl, Banks said, “Conventional wisdom says it’s going to be the Denver Broncos, but if there’s any type of weather, I’m picking Seattle. But I’m thinking Denver is going to win the game if all weather conditions are right.

“My heart is in Seattle, but my head is in Denver. I like [Seattle], and I think they have to do a lot right to win the game, but I think they’re built for it defensively. We know that they’re going to play well defensively. Playing well defensively against the Denver Broncos could mean giving up 21 points. Now the question is can they match those points offensively? And I don’t think, given the experience in a game of this magnitude, that Russell Wilson will be able to do that. Now, they may be able to run the ball and I could be wrong, but I just think the intangibles go to Peyton Manning.”

A lot is being made over the decision to have MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets, in northern New Jersey host the Super Bowl. Many feel that the game should be played in an environment where weather wouldn't be a factor. As Banks noted, fair weather favors the Broncos’ prolific passing attack, while poor conditions favor the Seahawks ground-and-pound running game. However, above all else, Banks believes that the Broncos have the one game-changing player that is unmatched amongst his peers.

“My head is definitely with the guy that is the greatest quarterback playing football right now,” Banks said of Manning. “He is the greatest of a generation. When you look at this generation of quarterbacks, you almost get to that place where it’s that Montana-Marino discussion, and then you got Elway and the bunch. Well, it’s right now almost like a two-horse race, and that’s Brady and Manning. On paper, on the field, it’s Peyton Manning. But the intangibles of being a quarterback, there’s something about Tom Brady and this whole blue-collar thing about him. California kid with a blue-collar work ethic, and the fact that I know you have to put a stake in his heart before he walks off the field. It’s kind of a style thing for me, but how do you take it away from Peyton Manning? The numbers don’t lie. They really don’t. It’s not like he played in a watered-down league and Tom Brady didn’t. They’re playing in the same league, so it’s just so hard to go up against him.”

Banks, effusive in his praise for Manning, believes that he has long since locked up the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. However, on the defensive side, he sees it as a tight race.

“You’ve got to put Richard Sherman in the hunt,” Banks said about his pick for the Defensive Player of the Year award. “You got good interceptions, incredible play all year. Do you look at the defensive lineman all the time? Do they always have to be in that group? I think Sherman would probably be there. NaVorro Bowman was having a great year, and he could win the award. So I would say those two guys are my two front runners.”

The conversation inevitably shifted toward Sherman and the media frenzy following the NFC Championship Game. Banks sympathizes with Sherman and all the backlash he received following his postgame interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews, and he offered a sensible opinion from the viewpoint of a former player.

“It was totally unjust, but these are people that make judgments with no investment in preparing for a game, no investment in what it’s like to make the play that sends your team to the Super Bowl,” Banks remarked. “Let’s factor in that he’s 20-something years old and that this trash talking started this summer, which is not uncommon in sports. So when he does that, after probably two minutes after he just made the play of his life, you put a mic in his face, its youthful exuberance. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. He wasn’t derogatory in his language, and it was fun. All of a sudden [Michael] Crabtree is the sympathetic figure and Sherman is the villain. I’m like, ‘How so?’”

Banks played in the same era as some of the biggest trash talkers in league history, so what unfolded in the closing moments of the NFC Championship Game between Sherman and Crabtree along with the revelations following the game about the ongoing trash talk was nothing new for him.

“I played in an era when Deion Sanders played, Shannon Sharpe, Sterling Sharpe, and it goes on and on,” Banks said. “I’ve worked out with Shannon and Sterling in South Carolina before, and they have a group of NFL players that come in. That trash talk starts during those workouts, and they carry on into the season. So this is no different. It’s just that if you put a mic in someone’s face, say if the same thing happened when Shannon Sharpe or Sterling Sharpe were playing, it probably would’ve gotten worse.”

Sherman may be brash, but he has to crank it all the way up to 11 before he’s able to match up with Sanders or either of the Sharpe brothers in the trash-talking department. You likely would’ve heard a few expletives come out of their mouths had they been in the same scenario, and the reality of the situation is that the broadcast team dodged a bullet with Sherman keeping some measure of composure during the interview.

Make sure to check back in the coming days to hear more from Banks and to read what Hakeem Nicks has to say about free agency, whether Richard Sherman is the best corner in the NFL, and his pick to win Super Bowl XLVIII.

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