Whenever someone comes under harsh scrutiny, it’s easy to lean on the familiar advice of “focus on your own happiness first.” But if the person being examined and criticized on such an intimate level depends mostly on the public’s satisfaction for a living, that advice no longer applies.
I recently wrote about “The Underlying Discomfort With Cam Newton’s Blackness” and examined how subtle racism plays a role in the strong, polarizing reactions that the North Carolina Panthers quarterback seems to attract with whatever he does.
Going into the Super Bowl this past Sunday, I knew I was going to be relatively fine with whatever the outcome was. The Chicago Bears were nowhere near relevant this late in the season and the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers were both eliminated. Peyton Manning was trying to get his 200th win and Cam Newton, the newly announced NFL MVP, was looking to finish off an amazing season with a championship. While I preferred the latter, either was fine.
As the entire world likely knows by now, Denver won the game with a final score of 24-10. Cam Newton’s offense was brought to a screeching halt by the Broncos Von Miller-led defense and only helped his offense score a single touchdown. The MVP didn’t show up that night. However, those that have been criticizing Newton for being cocky and immature all season long showed up in full force.
While speaking with the media for his post-game interview, Newton was noticeably bothered after losing the biggest game of his career. He was mentally and emotionally distant and gave brief answers. Then, with no real warning, he shook his head, stood up and walked out.
That was it. The moment of immaturity that everyone had been waiting for. Social media debates came within a couple minutes with defenses from both sides. People, like Rob Lowe for example, took the opportunity to call Newton out for being classless and lacking humility and grace.
Lowe specifically went on to say Newton was setting a poor example for kids. Many found this incredibly ironic given his 1988 run-in with the law after videotaping himself having sex with a 16-year-old girl (who was at the legal age f consent in Georgia).
Another example of someone coming out to revel in Newton’s emotional breakdown came from former NFL linebacker, Bill Romanowski. According to New York Daily News, Romanowski said, “You’ll never last in the NFL with that attitude. The world doesn’t revolve around you, boy! #CamNewton” in a now deleted tweet.
In case there are any debates, referring to a grown man as a boy is demeaning, to say the least. But a white man with a history of racism calling a grown black man a boy is deeply seated in racism and presumed superiority. Also, the assumption that the reigning MVP won’t “last in the NFL” after losing in the championship game behind a 15-1 regular season is ridiculous.
The most alarming thing is that Romanowski’s tweet wasn’t even the most harsh thing he’s said about Cam Newton recently. In a recent interview with Bleacher Report he was asked if he’d rather get a hit in on Peyton Manning or Newton. His answer was clearly Newton, but the emotion behind it is what raises an eyebrow or two.
“Cam Newton. Are you kidding me?” Romanowski said. “I’d hit him as hard as I possibly could and probably at the bottom of the pile, I’d try to get him by the neck and choke him.”
“Hopefully he can’t breathe for a long time,” he continued.
There are a few worthwhile observations to be made against the recent I-told-you-so’s concerning Cam’s maturity following him walking out of his interview. But first I’d like to plainly state that he was, in fact, wrong in doing so. He should’ve toughed it out for those few minutes he had left and gone to live in seclusion for the entire rest of the offseason if that’s what he wanted to do. It would’ve saved him the additional headache he likely now has.
The first observation is what’s possibly the real reason for Newton’s walk-off. While he was conducting his interview, Denver Broncos defensive back Chris Harris could be heard in the background conducting one of his own, according to New York Daily News.
“Load the box, force y’all to throw the ball,” Harris reportedly said. “Can you throw the football? That was the gameplan.”
Imagine being in Cam’s position. You just played poorly in your first chance at a Super Bowl. Then you swallow your pride to attend your presser and relive the experience on a public stage. Just to hear someone criticizing you for not doing your job within earshot. This isn’t meant to be an excuse for his actions, but more of an observation.
The second observation is that Newton wasn’t doing anything that other players haven’t done in the past just to not receive half of the negative attention. As a matter of fact, Peyton Manning, the same quarterback that beat Newton this past Sunday and is likely riding off into retirement, did something very similar in 2010.
After losing to the New Orleans Saints 31-17 in the Super Bowl, Manning walked off of the field without shaking hands with the opposing team. Now, shaking hands after the game is a bit overrated anyway, but it’s still seen as an expression of good sportsmanship by many. While some definitely thought this was unsportsmanlike, the common perception was that Manning was just emotionally invested in the game and that the loss was tougher than most. It mostly went unnoticed.
Not only did Cam Newton go shake hands with Manning after the game, but he did so with his trademark smile stretching across his face. But that fact doesn’t really fit into the narrative of him being an immature, arrogant quarterback so it wasn’t focused on. Honestly, even if it did, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be claims that somehow means Cam cared about the loss even less than he should. Which is actually a thing, somehow.
But the not-so-funny thing is that if Cam would’ve come out and threw for three touchdowns and ran one in while he dabbed his way through the endzone, he likely would’ve still been crucified for something. It was a lose-lose situation for him before kickoff. You know, besides having the chance to be a champion.
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