by Jason Howard Kelly
Super Bowl 50 is just days away and one of the central figures of this year’s match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers is Carolina’s starting quarterback, Cam Newton. Not only is Newton one of the top players in the league, as well as a finalist for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, but he is also the biggest lightning rod in the NFL. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground when it comes to how fans perceive Cam Newton. They either love him or they can’t stand him. Now, some of that is simply a result of Newton leading the most dominant team in the NFL this year. The Carolina Panthers finished the regular season with an astounding 15-1 record, with their only loss coming in week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers stomped all over their opponents this year on the way to the Super Bowl, and that kind of dominance can breed discontent from fans who were forced to witness their team get steamrolled by Cam Newton.
There is, however, another reason why Newton is the most polarizing figure in the NFL today.
Cam Newton / via CBS Sports
The dancing. And by dancing what I really mean is Cam’s entire personality. Newton is extremely demonstrative on the field, regardless as to whether his team is winning or losing. But Cam’s dancing and histrionics really kick into high gear when he scores a touchdown and, as seen above, it often rubs people the wrong way.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating. In fact, it’s often better to see athletes showing emotion during a game rather than appearing robotic, because it gives the fan a chance to see the passion involved in the game. Nevertheless, many fans across the NFL have expressed their displeasure with Cam’s actions on the field, and he is aware of it.
In the weeks leading up to his first ever Super Bowl appearance Newton made reference to the complaints from fans about his expressive personality.
“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,” Newton said.
Newton has since attempted to backpedal from those comments, but the fact remains that Newton brought race into an issue that had absolutely nothing to do with race. Race is no longer a barrier in the NFL. Including this year’s Super Bowl, the past four Super Bowls have featured a black quarterback. Cam Newton will be playing in this year’s Super Bowl, Russel Wilson had played in the previous two, and Colin Kaepernick played in the Super Bowl back in 2013.
So why bring race into this at all? If fans are annoyed or bothered by Cam Newton’s actions then it is, for the most part, tied directly to the actions themselves, not the race of the quarterback. This does not mean that there is no racism attached to Cam Newton. Unfortunately, racism is still pervasive in our society, so there are bound to be some fans that dismiss Cam Newton simply because of the color of his skin. But let’s not focus on inherently irrational fans like that. Let us, instead, focus on the completely rational NFL fans who have been unfairly labeled as ‘racist’ simply because they don’t like Cam Newton.
The dislike towards demonstrative athletes is not exclusive to Cam Newton. For example, there are many fans who get annoyed with Aaron Rodgers every time he does his vintage, “discount double-check” move.
Aaron Rodgers / via Pinterest
There are also fans who got sick and tired of seeing Tim Tebow kneel down and pray whenever he scored a touchdown.
Tim Tebow / via The Boston Globe
Everyone has their own preferences. It is what makes us all unique as individuals and as fans. We should be allowed to express how we feel about an athlete without the presumption of prejudice or discrimination towards that athlete based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
So don’t worry if you find yourself becoming annoyed by Cam Newton, or any other athlete, when they do something that you don’t like during a game. It does not mean that you are biased, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you.