Cam Newton Controversy Not About Race

By Ryan Dyson

In the month of February, the biggest debate in terms of Sports and Society would definitely be the uproar surrounding Cam Newton and whether or not the criticism he has received is due to him being black. After watching all of the ESPN coverage on it, hearing what friends had to say, and discussing it in class I personally believe that it is not a fully racial issue.

In one of his press conferences before the Super Bowl, Newton said to reporters “I’m an African American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to”. Now I believe that to be partly true, we have never seen a quarterback in the NFL that we can look to and say “Cam Newton reminds me of ______”.

With the hype surrounding college and even high school players, it has become a favorite for analysts to say “this kid reminds me of Peyton Manning” or “he could be the next Adrian Peterson” and what Cam has right is that there really is not another player that has his abilities. Maybe the closest we could say is he is a bigger and stronger Colin Kapernick but given that they’re pretty much the same age and Newton has shown to be much more skilled the comparison really isn’t warranted.

Although it may keep ESPN analysts up at night, I don’t believe that this lack of a comparative figure scares people. Cam Newton is a very flashy type of player. From the way he dresses off the field, his persona, to his post touchdown dances everything about him is flashy. While most fans of Carolina Panthers may enjoy it, a majority of other teams’ fans often see it is arrogance.

After Newton made those comments, ESPN conducted a poll in which they asked why Cam Newton faced so much criticism. Sixty-two percent believed it was due to his on field style of play and only fourteen percent believed it is race related. Now that may just be resentment due to the Panthers’ recent success but I personally don’t believe that the dislike of Cam Newton’s style purely race related.

In terms of this day and age, I believe the only comparable figure to make my point would be fellow Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. When Manziel was at Texas A&M, he dazzled everyone with his ability to maneuver around and threw opponents, and at 5’11 dominated a position predominantly played by those over 6’2.  What brought the controversy with Manziel was his antics. His partying and signature “show me the money” sign he would do after scoring also brought similar criticism. While they are very different in size and one has had considerable more success in the NFL, they both have showed speed and an ability to make plays.

I think it can be argued that Manziel’s antics have brought much more negative attention to him from people than Cam Newton has received. What truly breeds resentment is success, we’ve seen that with nearly every successful superstar in every sport. While there are some that may be more respected than others, success will attract opposition. At the same time, success and flash will attract even more. Overall, my point is that I do not believe that race is what motive behind the opposition to Cam Newton, but in fact his success and flashy style.

The thing about this controversy, is that it occurred in two parts. The first taking place during the pre-game media extravaganza, and the second taking place after the game. After the loss and an unusually poor performance by Newton, he was not his usual upbeat and confident self. After about two minutes of slouching in his chair and mumbling responding to reporters’ questions about the game, Newton got up and left. After this seemingly uneventful press conference, the sports media world erupted and all types of conversations began.

“He’s immature”, “that was unprofessional”, “he can’t do that if he wants to be a star in this league” were all things I heard analysts say on ESPN. One other opinion that I heard was that Newton would not be receiving the same criticism if he were a white quarterback, and that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have walked out of press conferences before too and didn’t receive the same criticism.

Personally, I disagree with that the criticism to Newton received for post-game press conference was race related. Now after hearing that argument I considered the notion, but after seeing a little more of what had to be said I really didn’t believe it to be true. Earlier in the season, after being criticized by another player for his celebrations Newton responded with “If you don’t want me to dance keep me out of the end zone,” which is exactly what the Broncos defense was able to do.

Many former players on ESPN (many which were black) criticized Newton’s actions calling him immature and that superstar quarterbacks in this league can’t do that on the biggest stage. In regard to the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning walking out of press conferences reference, I don’t really believe it to be a fair comparison. I don’t know in any instance where Peyton Manning had left a press conference, but the only time I can think of Tom Brady doing it this past year was during a middle of the week news conference when the only questions he had been asked were in regard to Donald Trump.

It was then where Brady left and said “Bye guys” with a chuckle. I looked back through other quarterback’s post super bowl losing press conferences, and all of them, black or white was visibly upset about the loss but took the questions as a professional. If you want to dance after a touchdown that’s fine, but I don’t think anyone can fault someone for not being upset when he loses. Personally, I was rooting for the Panthers and I think Newton is an exciting player and does a lot of good for his community. But in terms of the Super Bowl the criticism he received was warranted because of his actions, not his race.


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