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Awful Announcing recently compiled a list of what sports writers and fans said about Cam Newton when he came into the NFL in 2011. Unsurprisingly, almost all of the analysis was grounded in a white supremacist understanding of black masculinity. Consider the following from NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi:
“What worries me about Cam Newton is: is he a person who is going to work hard? Will he be dedicated? Is the money going to spoil him?”
This quote is racially coded language centered in questions about Cam’s character. It essentially calls him lazy. Consider this quote from USA Today in a similar vein:
“Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable.”
The most baffling assessment comes from the beloved Mel Kiper, Jr. He said:
“We know he loves to play the game of football, but this isn’t the NBA.”
I have no idea what that means, but I can assure you that few quarterbacks have had to contend with the levels of hateration that Newton has had to endure. And yet, despite all this, Cam Newton stood strong. He is the 2015-2016 NFL MVP. He has had an amazing season. He single handedly made the Carolina Panthers offense Super Bowl worthy—and although he did not achieve his goal, I am still in awe of all he has accomplished.
After the Super Bowl, Cam Newton, understandably dejected, was emotional and uninterested in answering questions from the media. This drew the ire of many who were looking for an excuse to attack Newton’s character. Bill Romanaski, former Bronco, jumped at that chance by tweeting:
You’ll never last in the NFL with that attitude. The world doesn’t revolve around you, boy! #CamNewton”
To be sure, Cam could have performed with a bit more professionalism in his post-game interview. I would have liked to see him walk out with his head held high, but he had just lost the Super Bowl. It was the nadir of his professional career. I would have probably reacted in a similar way—especially after having to endure dimwitted questions all week from white journalists both attracted and repelled by my blackness. I, too, may have stormed out after my mandatory three minutes were up if I was forced to be interviewed in the same room with an opponent. I will not hold Newton to a standard that I, myself, cannot achieve.
Yet, the racism in the response from Romanowski is hardly concealed. To call a grown man ‘boy.’ Is something that would not be said to Bill Belichik—a man notorious for being terse in interviews. No one called Peyton Manning ‘boy’ when he ran off the field and refused to shake hands with opponents after losing Super Bowl XLIV. No, they said Manning was just deeply competitive:
Apparently some think this is a sign of poor sportsmanship from the NFL’s greatest player. It’s not. Walking off the field without congratulating Drew Brees may go against our misguided notion of what sportsmanship should be, but it wasn’t at all disrespectful or bitter. It shows how much Peyton Manning wanted to win the game. And who can argue about that?
The amount of vitriol, the depths of covert racism, which Newton has had to endure is unconscionable; the double standard is staggering. Nothing he does will be, or is ever, enough for those looking for something to criticize—and, let’s just be honest, they are overly critical for no reason other than the fact that he is black.
Additional Super Bowl Notes:
* Defense truly wins championships—and Peyton Manning is a quarterback that’s won two national championships while performing mediocre in both.
* Beyoncé is the true winner of the Super Bowl. America’s biggest pop star used America’s biggest stage to pay homage to an American socialist/communist, revolutionary, Black Nationalist organization—all while amassing incredible capitalistic gain. Beyoncé is the true MVP.