Cam Newton has quickly turned into one of the most polarizing figures in sports after he successfully turned his 7-8 Carolina Panthers team into a 15-1 Super Bowl contender overnight. He has received a lot of praise for his athleticism and pocket awareness, but he has also received a lot of criticism for celebrating in the end zone, speaking his mind and most of all, refusing to be who society expects him to be.
It is no secret that Newton has had troubles in the past. He left the University of Florida after purchasing a stolen laptop. A couple years later his father was brought into the national spotlight for allegedly accepting bribes while he attended Auburn University.
Newton was also criticized for not being a team player during his first couple seasons in the NFL. He was often seen with his head down, with a towel covering his face during losses. However he has never been shy about addressing these issues of his past. He acknowledged that he has made mistakes. With that being said, it appears he is a much different person now.
“It’s funny we still fight that battle based on what? All he’s done when he came in his rookie year…he had a dynamic rookie year,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “He was NFL (Offensive) Rookie of the Year. He’s been in conversations every year for awards. This year he’s in the conversation for MVP. I still don’t get why he has to (be criticized). And maybe there are some people out there who are concerned with who he is, which I think is terrible. I really do.”
Everyone deserves the right to grow up. Why is Newton not allowed to be frustrated when he loses football games? Yes, he may not have handled it like a leader in the past, but he was also a kid. It is no longer all about him, and he knows that. He has grown up a lot in the past couple seasons. Frankly, he just was not ready to be a role model back then.
This season is a different story. Newton has made a name for himself both on and off the field. He has been very involved in the Charlotte community while also dominating on the gridiron. He has made every young Panthers fan hopeful that the next game might be the game they receive a football from Newton’s long outstretched arms.
Some people have brought up race when it comes to the way Newton has been treated this season, and I personally do not buy it. Those people need to do some research. He is not the first great African-American quarterback. There have been other African-American quarterbacks that have excelled in the position. In fact, there are some great black quarterbacks playing in the NFL right now.
Has everyone just jumped off the Russell Wilson bandwagon just because he did not make three straight Super Bowls? Wilson is a beloved duel threat quarterback like Newton. He may not have Newton’s athletic ability and size, but he is still a great signal caller under pressure.
My point is that race is not the reason Newton is so polarizing. There are many other African American professional athletes that are beloved by many people. I think it is his attitude, swagger and frankly, his downright cockiness that puts people on edge.
People usually embrace this type of confidence, but the country is having a harder time doing this because of his questionable past. People believe that he should be more humble if he wants to be accepted, and well, Cam does not really care. That is the difference. Win or lose, he is still going to dab.
Eddie Leonard is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He tweets @EddieLeonard23.