NFL Racism Put on Display after Super Bowl 50

By Katelyn Stadtlander

We talked about Super Bowl 50 and the treatment of Cam Newton after his Carolina Panthers lost to Peyton Manning and the Broncos by a score of 24-10. After the end of the game Cam Newton, a black quarterback, received an exorbitant amount of criticism and chastisement after he subsequently left the post-game interview in the middle of being asked questions by reporters.

However, the entirely unfair amounts of criticism of this quarterback were not limited specifically to that incident, there was article after article, media segments, and letters written about Cam Newton all season long criticizing his play, his attitude and him overall as a person. This issue really stuck out to me because I whole heartedly believe that this negative commentary surrounding him was entirely because he was a black quarterback, that was unapologetic in his “blackness” and that made white America uncomfortable.

After each football game played in America it is customary that players form each team are subjected to post-game press conferences and interviews in which they are asked mostly pointless questions by the media that are respective to whether they won or lost. The Super Bowl was no different and, of course, the media pounced on Cam Newton after his Panthers lost the game. No pun intended.

It was in the middle of this press conference that Newton got up and walked out. He did not apologize for these actions. He owned up to the fact that he was a sore loser, yet did not apologize for it stating: “I’m on record as being a sore loser. I hate losing. You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

Cam Newton makes no apologies for who he is nor does he feel the need to justify himself. The entire country, however, felt that he was in the wrong and I feel that it was entirely because he is a black quarterback, a historically white position.

His white counterpart, Peyton Manning, is no stranger to walking off after Super Bowls but he does not get criticized in the same way. In his 2010 Super Bowl loss to the New Orleans Saints, as the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Manning walked off the field while there was still time on the clock.

However, the commentary and media articles that surfaced after that 31-17 loss by Manning called him a competitor, that he was not a poor sport and stated that he was just so passionate about the game that he could not bear to handle the loss. I, for one, would agree with that.

I would agree that his fierce competitiveness caused him to walk off the field without shaking hands and without congratulating Drew Brees. But, I would also argue that-that same argument applies to Newton when he left the press conference. However, the media does not agree. The difference between Manning and Newton in that instance was Newton went to midfield after the loss, shook hands with Manning, congratulated him, all with his signature grin plastered to his face.

However, that image is very rarely shown, referenced or even talked about when the media publishes their harsh articles about Newton’s poor sportsmanship for leaving a measly press conference. Former Bronco Bill Romanowski went on to tweet “You’ll never last in the NFL with that attitude. The world doesn’t revolve around you, boy!”

Stooping so low as to use a historically racist term to refer to the black quarterback, to refer to another grown man. I feel with the utmost confidence that he would never refer to Peyton Manning as “boy.”

Conservative television personality, Glenn Beck, posted on his Facebook: “Cam has obviously not learned how to lose with grace. I wish I could show my children how to behave after a loss but unfortunately I can’t. This is not the behavior of someone who lost the game. This is the behavior of a loser.”

Again I feel with the utmost confidence that he would never post the same thing about Peyton Manning. In fact, no one posted such rhetoric about Manning after he left the field. So what is the difference between the two situations? What is different about the two men? It’s simple, one is a black quarterback and one is a white quarterback.

The position of quarterback has long been thought to be a position for the white players. In the times of Jim Crow, segregation and systematic oppression, it was thought that the black players did not have the intelligence to play the position. This has been ingrained in the sport, that white players play quarterback.

The fact that a black player has excelled at the position all the while being overt in his “blackness” and not apologizing for it has made white America uncomfortable. This was a running theme all season, it was not just limited to the Super Bowl.

During the regular season a mom from Nashville wrote an open letter to Cam Newton after his team defeated the Tennessee Titans, in which she wrote that his dancing, better yet his “pelvic thrusting” was inappropriate and was unacceptable. His dancing was criticized all season while his white counterparts either got away with the same thing or got endorsements for their dancing. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce did a popular dance in the endzone during the regular season called “hit the quan,” but he didn’t get an open letter from a fan, he didn’t get any backlash.

An ESPN anchor went on air the next day and made the following statement: “Wondering why there’s no letters to the editor, or why First Take‘s not doing ‘Should Travis Kelce be dancing in the end zone?’ They didn’t. I wonder why they’re not doing that… oh because he’s not black.”

He is stating that the public and the media are okay with Kelce’s dance because he’s white and I would argue that he is exactly right. Furthermore, when Aaron Rodgers dances in the end zone he got endorsements and commercials for his dance in which he acts as though he is putting on a championship belt. When Newton acts as though his ripping open his shirt like Superman he gets accused of being cocky and having poor sportsmanship. Whether he is doing his signature Super Man move or he is “dabbing,” Newton catches harsh and unfair criticism because he makes white America uncomfortable.

Cam Newton makes no apologies for who he is, he embraces the fact that he happens to be a black quarterback. He does not try to downplay the fact that he is a black man, in fact he even goes as far to equate football to collard greens in one interview. He is himself, always. Due to the deep rooted and ingrained racism in NFL football, the quarterback position and America as a whole, that makes white fans uncomfortable, causing an unfair amount of criticism and negative commentary about Cam Newton. This was a common theme during the entire NFL regular season but it was especially highlighted and brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention after Super Bowl 50.


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