I hate racism. Let’s lay that card on the table face up for all to see. But I also hate when the race card is played as some wild card form of a defense mechanism.
Cam Newton has been one of the most scrutinized NFL players this season, largely due to his success with the Carolina Panthers, who had an NFL-best 15-1 record in the regular season. Newton has played so well this year that he launched himself into MVP consideration, which brought even more scrutiny upon his game.
Scrutiny, for the record, does not mean criticism, although they’re often used interchangeably. Scrutiny is “an examination or investigation”, or “a close and continuous watching” of a person or situation. Criticism, on the other hand, is “the passing of judgement” on a person or situation.
In other words, the criticism comes after the scrutiny.
So, while Newton has been scrutinized this season — as any MVP candidate should be — criticism has been heaped upon him from the general public.
Many people have been critical of Newton’s celebrations and dancing while others have doubted his abilities. Neither one of these criticisms are race-specific, but Newton on Wednesday certainly tried to make them seem that way.
I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.Cam Newton — Carolina Panthers quarterback
It’s insulting that Newton would invoke the race card. We live in a society where racism is still present, but to use it as a defense mechanism is just plain wrong. To say that the only reason he receives criticism is because people haven’t seen a black quarterback of his ilk comes off as both arrogant and defensive.
And that’s all the more reason not to like the guy.
What Newton doesn’t understand is that he receives a lot of criticism because he brings it on himself. He wants everybody to heap attention upon him while the consummate professional will deflect that attention away.
Take a look at the other quarterback who will play in Super Bowl 50. After the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Round, Peyton Manning was asked on TV if he had any comments about his upcoming matchup against Tom Brady.
Manning did what all true professionals should do — as in turn the spotlight away from himself — when he said something to the effect of, “Well, it’s between the Broncos and the Patriots.”
One of the biggest criticisms that Newton receives is for his propensity to spend time dancing and celebrating excessively when he scores touchdowns or — even worse — when he picks up first downs. And whether he is showboating or just “having fun” — as is his common defense — is not the point. The point is that it draws attention away from the team and onto himself.
Brian Billick, former head coach of the Super Bowl XXXV champion Baltimore Ravens, was on the The Boers And Bernstein Show on WSCR 670 The Score on Thursday. While Billick did not condemn Newton for his dancing, he did sum up the core reason why people have a problem with Newton’s dancing.
For me, he’s making it a little bit much about him.Brian Billick — former Baltimore Ravens head coach
Intent is not on trial here, reality is. We’re not crucifying Newton because he intends to be a selfish jerk. I believe within me that he has good intentions. But good intentions don’t automatically mean you’re doing the right thing. The reality is that by trying to “have fun” and entertain the masses, he’s making it a little too much about himself.
Newton wore a shirt in the Panthers locker room with his #1 on it and the word “TEAM” in place of his own name.
Cam Newton all about… pic.twitter.com/7yvBSAgvhF
— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) January 27, 2016
I had to scoff at this image because Newton’s actions on the field certainly come off differently. Instead of dancing, he should focus his attention on celebrating with his teammates. That would prove he’s less interested in being in the spotlight and more focused on the team.
Race is not a factor here — at least not for me or from my perspective. While I’m not going to think there are no racist football fans out there, I’d say the majority of Newton’s critics couldn’t care less what color he is.
Let’s examine some other players for proof.
Johnny Manziel gets on my nerves as much, if not more than any other player in the NFL. He carries the nickname “Johnny Football,” he taunts opponents, he parties too hard. He’s not a true professional and I loathe him for that. Every time he puts up his fingers and gives the money sign, I want chop them off — that’s not too violent, is it?
And last time I checked, Manziel is not black. He is whiter than paste.
How about Russell Wilson? I think the guy is overrated, but I think he’s a professional and a good teammate. He’s a solid citizen for whom I have great respect. And he’s black, by the way.
Then there’s that Aaron Rodgers guy. He’s an enigma because he’s mostly a team guy, but his touchdown celebration gets on my nerves. Every time he does the “Discount Double Check” — which first started off as him motioning like he had a WWE championship belt around his waist — I wanted to give him a Brock Lesnar German suplex.
It’s not about race. It’s not about age. It’s purely about shameless self promotion. It’s the dancing and celebration that causes people to dislike Newton, not his race.
Former Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, clearly an outspoken man, disputed Newton’s notion that it’s a racial issue, and he framed the argument in a different way.
I don’t think it’s racial. I just think that there’s a box that we put our quarterbacks in and we say, ‘This is how you’re supposed to be. This is how Peyton Manning did it, this is how Joe Montana did it, Tom Brady, so you do it the same way.’Brandon Marshall — New York Jets wide receiver
And for all of Newton’s supporters who want to say “the guy is just trying to have fun,” that is a bogus response. There are many players in the NFL who have fun every week and don’t need to hog the spotlight or bring attention upon themselves. They celebrate with their teammates and understand that even though they might be among the best players in the league, they’re really just 1 of 53 men on a given roster.
Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reiterated the concept of fun and celebration when he weighed in on the Newton topic this week.
You know who I like the way he celebrates is Peyton [Manning]. He kind of gives the guy a handshake and goes back to the sidelines. I think that’s a great celebration right there. You don’t see him dancing. You don’t see him doing all of that stuff. Even when he gets a first down he doesn’t do anything.Brian Urlacher — former Chicago Bears middle linebacker
A true leader and a real professional knows when to step out of the spotlight and let his teammates receive their due credit.
Maybe Newton will learn something from Manning a week from Sunday about what it means to be a professional and a selfless leader.