2015 was a huge year for race relations in the United States of America. The Black Lives Matter protests, the riots in Baltimore after the death of Freddy Gray, the marches in Chicago in response to the death of LaQuan McDonald. It was and still is a tense time in America. Sports are supposed to be our one great escape, something that all of us can bond over no matter our racial, socioeconomic, or educational background. Then came Cam Newton and the 15-1 Carolina Panthers, barnstorming their way to an eventual berth in Super Bowl 50, and a whole bunch of garbage takes shaming Cam Newton for having the audacity to be a black quarterback who is having fun.
Throughout his career, Newton has been nitpicked, criticized and called out every step of the way. If he dances when he scores, people get angry. If he gives a football to a child, people think it’s a PR stunt. With every single game he plays and dominates, you would think his doubters would have less ammunition. As we approach Super Sunday, some fans and pundits are still turning to coded racism to attack Newton for making football enjoyable.
The NFL is a soulless product. They will take your team away from you, your team will sign a garbage human being who viciously attacked his girlfriend and call him “a great leader.” You even might be forced into watching a team go 0-16 for the first time in league history. There are plenty of bad things about the NFL, but Cam Newton is not one of them. Like many of us, Newton has a skeletons in his closet, dating back to his time at Florida, when he was nearly expelled after being charged with the theft of a laptop and accused of cheating. Newton landed in junior college, then Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy and a National Championship in one electric season as a Tiger. Even at Auburn, Newton wasn’t without criticism, rumors abound that his father took a $180,000 payment for Newton to attend Auburn over other schools. Once he reached the pros, Newton was poked and prodded and there was even debate if he was worthy of the first overall pick (his contemporaries in the 2011 draft class were Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick)
None of them are the athlete Newton is, and perhaps more importantly, none of them are as lauded for their community outreach as much as Newton is. For every dance he does, or every time he dabs, it’s worth remembering that he is doing a LOT off the field as well: taking 25 mentally/physically handicapped children on shopping sprees at Christmastime, providing Thanksgiving dinner for 900 kids in Charlotte, and running his foundation, dedicated to “enhancing the lives of young people by addressing their socioeconomic, educational, physical, and emotional needs.” Sounds like an awful human being right?
What sickens me, is that some people are offended by Cam Newton being himself. It’s one thing to be a black quarterback, but god forbid he should dance when he accomplishes something while playing a game that he is putting his body and brain at risk for. Football is a game and one that is supposed to be fun. Cam Newton brings that childlike whimsy to a sport that has been sanitized by rule changes and is giving us the worst product in recent memory. Furthermore, the word “class” needs to be eradicated from sports. People used the same coded language two years ago when Richard Sherman went on his rant after the NFC Championship, the funny part is now some Seahawks fans are calling out Cam Newton for being “classless” and want him banned from playing at CenturyLink Field. Now of course that is a small sliver of people, but it’s still unbelievable.
This fact may catch you by surprise, but in the last four Super Bowls, the NFC representative has featured a black Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson (twice) and now Newton. Kaepernick and Wilson were not put under the same microscope that Newton has been under since 2010. Perhaps it’s because Wilson is a celibate, bible quoting man of God, while Newton is hanging out with rappers Young Jeezy and Future before games. It could be speculated that Cam Newton is viewed as “different” because he is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, but doesn’t feel the need to conform to stereotypes that are expected of a player in that role (except for shilling mediocre foodstuffs during NFL games, but shoot I do buy that yogurt.) If Newton hoists the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, it will be a coronation six years in the making.
Now, I want to come clean. Your faithful writer did not like Cam Newton back in college and early in his NFL career for many of the same reasons some people do today. He was a showboater, I thought it was arrogant of him to wear #1, and I didn’t think he had the glib to be a successful NFL QB. It was shortly after the 2012 season, Newton’s second year that I changed my mind. I read an article that said he went back to Auburn with designs on finishing his degree in sociology. Now many players do this, but Newton did so because of a promise he made to his mother Jackie when he left school early for the 2011 draft. I grew up knowing much like Newton, when you make a promise to your mother, you keep it, and that was when Cam Newton earned my respect. Newton did finish that degree last June and used the 2015 season to launch himself into the stratosphere as not just a great quarterback, but a fun-loving pop culture phenomenon. The only difference is that if Newton were white, he would be Brett Favre circa 1996, and everyone would adore him. Alas, Cam is black, and embraces the fact he is just a 26 year old kid from Atlanta playing a game he loves. Cam is also a leader of one of the NFL’s most potent offenses on a 15-1 team with a very good chance of winning the Super Bowl. Finally, Cam is an NFL player that believe it or not, has no criminal record, no off the field scandals, and not a single shred of indecency about him, instead he is known more for how much he gives back. So spare me your garbage that Newton is a showboater, or plays the game the wrong way. Cam Newton makes football fun, and I can’t wait to see him and President Obama dab at the White House in June. Go Panthers.