FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cam Newton and the Racism of NFL Fans

by

shutterstock_90530782

If you’re a black athlete, White Americans will cheer for you; they will attend your games; they will even buy your jersey—just make sure you display endless amounts of humility, meekness, and gratitude. Most white folks want entertainment, but they don’t want the help acting too uppity. That’s why Cam Newton is the kind of black athlete white folks tend to hate.

Like Jack Johnson and early Mike Vick, Newton refuses to acquiesce to the expectations of white folks. He has young, white middle class kids doing the Dab, and he organically uses metaphors centered in the black experience when talking to the media. (When was the last time you heard a quarterback talk about collard greens?) Cam also plays a position that, in a sport full of black athletes, remains overwhelmingly white.

According to Pro Football Weekly, while black athletes represent two-thirds of the players in the NFL, only 20 percent are quarterbacks, and of those, only 12 percent started games. Further, a study by economist Brian Volz published in the Journal of Sports Economics shows that if a there is a sub-par performance, “black starting quarterbacks are 1.98 to 2.46 times more likely to be benched the next week” than white quarterbacks with a similar skill set. “This implies that black quarterbacks may face some level of discrimination in the NFL,” stated Volz.

Enter Cam Newton.

Newton was a divisive figure before he even entered the NFL. From allegations that money influenced his decision to attend Auburn to those contending that he should give back the Heisman trophy, Cam, for years, has been a lightening rod for controversy. When the Carolina Panthers drafted him as the first overall pick, some called him the “worst NFL draft pick ever.” That headline is laughable today, but it illustrates the kind of vitriol Newton attracts. Even as he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl this season, he faced heavy criticism. He was criticized for his dancing; he was criticized for his smile; many despised the towel over his head; some said he set a bad example by being an unwed father; and he was called ‘Classless Cam’ for tearing down a Seattle Seahawks 12th man flag. There is even a #BanTheCam Change.org petition stating that:

Cam Newton is one of the most unprofessional, unsportsmanlike individual on the face of the planet. So I say for the 2016-2017 when the Panthers come to play in Seattle he should be banned from entering the stadium. This should teach him to put his arrogance in check!

I think part of the reason why Newton draws the ire of so many is that he embraces black culture in a way that is subversively unapologetic. He does everything he is supposed to do: he answers questions at the press conferences; he gives credit to his teammates; he does charity work in the community, but he does it all his way. That is, he does not try to hide the fact that he was reared in a black, working class milieu.

Newton’s blackness is unavoidable. He wears gators and uniquely patterned suits; he doesn’t engage in the code switching often used by other black professionals. If the press ask him a question, he answers them in a black southern vernacular that doesn’t try to hide Africanisms. As Bomani Jones said, he is the embodiment of everything black men are told you cannot be and achieve success. He is uninterested in being ‘respectable.’ He is not trying to prove he belongs. Cam’s authenticity is confrontational in how it forces white supremacy to come to terms with his athletic brilliance…and brilliant he is.

Before now, black quarterbacks were thought of as run first, pass second threats. The notion of a genuine dual threat—a quarterback that is just as dangerous as a passer as he is a runner—was often discussed but rarely believed. There were questions about a black quarterback’s ability to stay in the pocket, drop back, and throw a pass. Further, there were racist assumptions about a black quarterback’s intellectual ability to play the position. Cam represents the future of the NFL because he shatters all those stereotypes. He is an incredibly accurate passer that can beat you with his legs because of his ability to read the defense. Cam Newton will be remembered as a revolutionary figure in the history of the NFL. Both because of his cultural impact and because of how he is changing the quarterback position.

I’ll be cheering for the Carolina Panthers during the Super Bowl. Not because I have a regional reason to do so, but because I want to witness black brilliance on display. Dab on them folk, Cam.

Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy and diversity coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s Ethics Center. He can be reached at:  Law.writes@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail