NFL season is in Al B. Sure effect mode and black quarterbacks have never been so well paid, well respected and accepted in supreme leadership roles on the football field.
The 2015 NFL season will have its usual carousel of highlights, low lights, drama and subplots. As usual, The Shadow League will be keeping an eye on anything of cultural significance going down on the gridiron.
That being said, the spotlight is turned up to 100 on two brothers who broke the bank this off-season and are finally getting paid for showing and proving. Carolina Panthers signal-caller Cam Newton and Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson are marketing gems and the lifelines of potentially-dope squads with real Super Bowl dreams.
Newton has carried a Carolina team with limited offensive mojo to two straight NFC South titles. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound QB King became the first African-American QB to break the $100 million mark since Mike Vick did it twice; first in 2005, signing a $130 million,10-year deal with Atlanta and then fleecing Philly for another $100 million in 2011 after doing a bid in prison for dog fighting.
Now that Killa Cam's squared away, the expectations of Panthers fans to finally reach a Super Bowl is growing. Newton, 26, is entering the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. He will be paid $14.66 million in 2015. The contract will eventually put Newton in the company of the Saints' Drew Brees as a quarterback with a $20 million average annual salary. Other quarterbacks with $20 million per year deals are the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Falcons' Matt Ryan and Ravens' Joe Flacco.
In July, Wilson also stepped into that elite financial realm with boss status. And as TSL’s Aaron Eaton accurately phrased it when reporting on the Wilson signing in July:
“Unlike the discussion of whether they should have run the ball instead of passing, the passive aggressive contract negotiations between Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks have come to an end. The franchise inked a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension, $60 million of that guaranteed, with the young QB today that will include a mega $31 million signing bonus.
Russ has been adamant that he wants to be paid like elite quarterback for his consistent play and back to back Super Bowl appearances; now he can sit back and enjoy one of the richest contracts in NFL history in terms of per-year average.
"For me, I just want to be paid based on what I'm worth, what I've produced, whatever that means. For me, I just let the play speak for itself…That's not my job to kind of do all that. That's why I hire (agent) Mark Rodgers, and that's why I trust him to figure everything out for me, work everything out, and sure enough it did, and I get to play here for another four more years. Couldn't be much better," says Wilson.
While Russ has proved his mettle as a champion, Cam is still climbing the ladder of success and checks, showing flashes of dominance but his 30-31-1 career record reflects his own inconsistencies and the deficiencies of his surrounding talent.
Neither QB has been shy about giving himself props and insisting that he’s worth every penny. Financial standing is just as important a statistical part of a modern day NFL QBs legacy as the numbers he puts up.
A QBs monetary “worth” says a lot about his stature within the league, how the fans perceive him, how much ownership trusts his character and consistency and his overall celebrity status.
After all, football is entertainment and the hottest headliners get the biggest checks, similar to how it works in Hollywood. Salary is a status symbol in the multi-billion dollar sports and entertainment industry and everybody wants to be lead actor.
Both of these cats are doing quite well in handling their high society swag.They are the anti-RG3s in how they go about the town and still lay it down on Sundays.
Cam is an endorsement magnet, model and considered prime material for movies after his career ends. Wilson not only has a new shorty in R-n-B diva Ciara and has become a positive role model for her young son, but TMZ reports that the homie just purchased a $6.7 million waterfront mansion on Lake Washington in Bellevue for his new fam.
(If you recall, I was one of the first reporters to ask RW about his Ciara situation during a six-minute interview I did with him called TSL Exclusive: Six Minutes With Super Bowl QB Russell Wilson)
For years, Hollywood turned its back on African-American males when casting lead roles in major motion pictures. Then Sidney Poitier open the door to Morgan Freeman, which lead to Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburn, Forest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle and Idris Alba …and the list keeps growing.
It all seems to come back to Doug Williams and then Michael Vick when pinpointing the moment that the black QB had truly arrived. (Speaking of Vick, he’s managed to secure himself another check as a clubhouse leader, mentor and backup QB for a solid Pittsburgh Steelers squad. He's a Big Ben hamstring pull from taking over head coach Mike Tomlin's turn tables. )
Their accomplishments and the way they played the game led to other black QBs getting a shot at greatness.
Williams’ black college football roots (Grambling), intelligence, leadership, size and rocket arm opened the door for similar NFL beasts – Warren Moon (who toiled in the CFL from ‘78-’83) and Steve "Air" McNair (Alcorn State).
Vick is basically “The Godfather” of the spread/dual-option quarterbacks. To this day, the NFL hasn’t seen a more exhilarating player than Vick in a Falcons uniform in his prime. His style of play birthed a generation of dual-threat QBs including Wilson, who became just the second black QB to win a Super Bowl in 2014.
This historic moment in the advancement of black QBs is evident. We have had brothers win Super Bowls and perform phenomenally on the field, but Wilson and Cam have upped the stakes and are examples of equal worth for equal work which also shifts the psychological and social perceptions about the capabilities and value of the African-American QB (which is still an issue from youth football on up).
The financial flood gates are officially open. If you got the game, guts and heart to become a franchise QB and perennial playoff contender in the NFL, then black, white, blue, orange, you’re going to get paid accordingly. It’s another small step for mankind.
Brothers better recognize.