Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton is one of my favorite players to watch in the National Football League. Strength, speed, athleticism in abundance, Cam led his team to the Super Bowl while earning league MVP honors with his stellar play last season. But Cam's absolute refusal to take a solid position when it comes to issues of race and social justice are maddening to say the least.
It all started back in January when Newton expressed what was a very popular sentiment among black fans at the time; "I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to.”
Black folks bubbled with pride while some folks showed us what they thought about race, too. The most notable among them was former NFL player and long-suspected racist Bill Romanowski, who sent out a tweet that read, "You will never last in the NFL with that attitude. The world doesn't revolve around you, boy!"
Just so everyone knew exactly who he was talking about, Romanowski used the hashtag #CamNewton.
After all that went down earlier this year, Newton appeared to say that he didn't want to discuss race anymore.
“I just want to become relatable," Cam told reporters during Media Day. "It’s bigger than race, it’s more so opening up a door for guys that don’t want to be labeled. That have bigger views and say, ‘Well, I’m in this situation, I’m living in this environment right now, but I also want to be an artist. I want to be a poet.’ But I don’t have the means to necessarily, do the right things at that particular point. So for me, I’m living the dream that I’ve always envisioned myself living, when I was 8, 9, 10 years old. I would always write down on Career Days: I want to be a football player.”
That's his prerogative. If you want to make a lot of marketing money, it would be a good deal not to piss off too many people, and to be about as coy and ambiguous as possible when the subject of race is brought up.
But it seems like he's going out of his way to defuse and confuse the issue of racism in America whenever he gets the chance. Several weeks ago he was at it again during an interview with GQ magazine.
“I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not. It’s not. Like, we’re beyond that. As a nation," he said.
That prompted me to pen an editorial that said Newton shouldn't be forced to bear the standard of black activism if he didn't want to, or was unequipped to.
With the firestorm of controversy surrounding San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem, reporters have been clamoring to get countering, and sometimes damning quotes from just about anyone associated with the National Football League. With the season right around the corner, it was only a matter of time before Newton would be called upon to address Colin's stance on the flag and the national anthem.
As was highlighted in his prior attempt at discussing race, Newton danced around the issue like a 90s boy band.
“Who am I to say that it’s wrong?” Newton asked. “Who am I to say that it’s right? Either or, it’s still personal."
“What I can’t fathom is, how does one-eighth of an inch—something so small—become the difference and such a big commodity of our whole lifetime. And that’s the thickness of our skin, one-eighth of an inch. Under that, we’re all the same color, and that’s the big picture.
“A lot of scrutiny happens when an athlete starts talking about race, but the truth of the matter is we’ve just got to do right by each other, no matter what color you are. Certain things that have happened in our lifetime, it is kind of embarrassing to be affiliated with, but it still happens. Who am I to say, ‘Colin, you’re wrong’? And who am I to say, ‘Bro, you’re right’? Because we all have the right to think what we want to think, and I respect that about everybody.”
Newton appears to be perpetually trying to take the middle ground. However, according to the Black tradition of activism in America, avoiding taking a hard stance on race is tantamount to acceptance.
Though Newton's attempts at discussing race in America have a decidedly humanist tint, they're ultimately of a Pollyanna-ish nature in light of the current and historic history of racial animus in America. While we admire those who speak their minds and exercise their First Amendment Rights in defense of the downtrodden, those same rights also give citizens the ability to call B.S. when we see it.
And on Cam's racial stance, I'm calling B.S.