Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton rolled out of the pocket to his right and raced toward the sideline after his passing options and running lanes were exhausted during a Week 3 game against the rival New Orleans Saints.
After being tackled, he hops up and exchanges words with referee Ed Hochuli, arguably the most famous ref in the National Football League, and then looks around with incredulousness when the conversation is at an end as he jogs back to the huddle. The Panthers win the game but keen reporters were primed to ask Cam exactly what the exchange was about and the normally jocular, smiling Newton’s faced immediately shriveled with disdain.
He told reporters present that Hochuli said he’s not old enough to get a personal foul call after what he believed was a late hit.
The tale he told has many in professional sports split down the middle with one half taking the words that Newton spoke on face value. The other half believes that Hochuli’s word should be taken at face value without further mention.
Newton says the reason he spoke out about the matter is he is concerned for his personal safety and that refs should simply make the appropriate calls as defined in the rule book. That’s a pretty reasonable expectation. However, when human emotions and sensibilities are involved, reason gets thrown out the window at times.
As expected, Hochuli has adamantly denied saying any such thing. Meanwhile, VP of officiating Dean Blandino expressed his support for Hochuli while making an appearance on the NFL Network.
“I certainly wasn’t there, but I’ve spoken with Ed,” Blandino said. “Ed was adamant that he did not say that. He told me that he said that ‘the difference is you were running.’ I think when you look at the tape it does look like Ed did say that, I think at one point. You can’t see everything that Ed says, but he’s adamant he didn’t say it and I think that’s where we are right now and we’re just going to kind of move on from there.”
However, despite the sudden explosion of people who would have us all believe they are professional lip readers, player safety should be the paramount concern for all involved. But that does not seem to be the case. The argument appears to be about whether or not Cam is lying or if Hochuli is lying.
Although fans and media treat pro athletes as if they are robots and critique them like emotionless superheroes, the human element is real. It has long been obvious and apparent that certain players throughout sports receive preferential treatment from referees/umpires/officials.
In the NBA, some guys get the benefit of "loose" whistles, while others can’t seem to get a call unless they’re bleeding. For example, there was a time when Michael Jordan would draw a foul seemingly without even being touched. While the behemoth Shaquille O’Neal would be fouled quite often without a whistle being blown.
Also, some MLB pitchers enjoy a strike zone of larger dimensions than their contemporaries. It's not far-fetched to believe similar things are happening in the NFL.
Rules are rules, at least that’s what most Americans have been taught since the 2nd grade. But most adults suspect differently in light of much evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately many of us believe rules are rather arbitrary and are largely dependent upon the mood and belief system of the individuals charged with enforcing the rules.
So, if Cam Newton believes a person who is supposed to be objective in pursuit of fair play, as well as player safety, is not holding up his end of the deal, one might expect that the NFL would pull out all the stops to make sure the rules are enforced. No? Well, the answer is actually no.
On Monday it was reported that the NFL will not move forward with any investigation into Newton’s claims due to the lack of audio.
But one is forced to ask himself a simple question; who has incentive to lie in this situation? Is it Cam Newton or Ed Hochuli? If an investigation finds that Hochuli did say what Cam claims he has then Hochuli would be reprimanded. If Cam is lying then his reputation will be impugned.
As it stands, Newton is a young Black man. A famous young Black man, but a young Black man all the same. Hochuli is a representative of the rules enforcement arm of the NFL. In the eyes of public opinion, one of them is a liar and that's not good for the NFL or the spirit of American competition.The fans have to believe that what they're seeing on the field is legit business. Or you have no business at all.