The Curious Case of Cameron Newton, Why Race isn’t a Factor, But Ignorance Is

Here is how they gon’ come at you
With silly raps for you tryin’ to distract you
In disguise, in the form of a favor
The Barzini me, watch for the traitors

Jay Z on Drake’s “Light Up”

What Hov was trying to explain to Drake is that when you are the “chosen one”, there are going to be outside factors trying to distract you from your success. There will always be people pretending to be friendly that are ready to stab you in the back. You always have to have your eyes open and on the prize.

Two things you learn in journalism school are:

1- The cover up is always bigger than the crime
2- Sex sells

Those two principles have been around since the Boardwalk Empire days, but if I was teaching young journalists in today’s media landscape I would add something else.

3- What happens off the court (field) is as relevant, if not more so than what happens on the court (field).

What happens on the court (field) is just the set up, an alley oop so to speak, to the discussions that go on in media. Once we moved to more digital forms of media where more people can call themselves “journalists” and everyone opinions can be seen, the traditional X & O style of reporting went by the wayside.

I wonder if Michael Jordan and others superstars of 90’s off the field transgressions would have been so easily covered up in 2012?

Could Jordan get away with punching Steve Kerr in the face at practice? Can you imagine the media frenzy that would take place if it was leaked that Lebron James punched Mario Chalmers?

This is the media world that Cameron Newton was born into.

It is a gift and curse, because it is also the reason his ascension to superstardom came so quickly. You have to understand, when he got to Auburn he wasn’t on the mainstream radar and in less than 8 months he won a Heisman Trophy, National Championship and was the #1 pick in NFL Draft.  Those weren’t even the biggest reasons he became a media sensation.

It was the back story.

The stolen laptop and subsequent dismissal from Florida, the year at the Juco, his preacher father allegedly offering up his services to the highest bidder and all the drama that came from that.

It was a made for TMZ movie.

Another change in media is that reporters now see themselves as celebrities and characters. The market is flooded now, so to get your voice heard. Some have decided to be worshipers of the House of Skip, meaning they feel the need to have EXTREME takes to get noticed.

Cameron is the perfect athlete for the media to either LOVE or HATE.  There is also a hint of jealousy involved. Don’t underestimate the fact that some journalists secretly hate that they aren’t the ones under center and will take out their frustrations about themselves on the athlete.

There wasn’t a lot of middle ground in reporting about Cameron’s NFL prospects. It became personal and self-serving, it wasn’t about Cameron, it was about getting on 1st Take or Pro Football Talk.

No matter what you said the other side would attack you.

The fact he was a black quarterback only added another level of discord between the media, fans and Cameron.

I often say that the best way for an athlete to handle a critic is to produce on the field. That is what Cameron did in his first year in Carolina.

Enough people were praying for his downfall that when he exceeded expectations he unintentionally created an expectation that realistically couldn’t be met.

For those in the media who aren’t Skiptized, Cameron’s actions this year aren’t that different from his actions last year, so what changed?

Cameron’s supporters were so buoyed by his success they started to CROWN him way to early. You started to hear whispers of the Panthers going to the Super Bowl and Cameron winning the MVP. They totally ignored not only glaring weaknesses in Cameron’s game, but also the Panthers team .

Cameron’s detractors were so silenced by his success that at the first sign of trouble this year, they POUNCED. They couldn’t wait to say “I told you so….”. They also totally ignored the fact that many 2nd year quarterbacks have a bit of slump since the NFL has had a full season to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

The question you hear a lot is….

“Why aren’t they critical of other quarterbacks they way they are critical of Cam”.

Andy Dalton is also struggling in his second year and no one cares, the reason is simple. What is “sexy” about Andy Dalton? What is the interesting back story about Andy Dalton? When did Andy Dalton call himself an Icon?

This is a Kardashian based society, no one cares about being fair, they care about what you the reader, viewer and listener have strong feelings for.

Cameron likes being a star and the center of attention. The spotlight isn’t just on when things are going well, but also when things are bad, how you handle it determines how you are perceived and covered.

Tim Tebow has the biggest spotlight of anyone in the NFL. Don’t think for a minute if he said or did something controversial it wouldn’t be breaking news on every newspaper, website and TV station in the country.

The difference between Tebow and Cameron is Tebow employs a Floyd Mayweather style defense to controversy, no matter how much he is baited he never takes the bait.

They call him garbage, say he should be cut, cry about him being a distraction and in the simplest terms he hits them with the “God Bless You” line and keeps it moving. He isn’t all in his feelings, so he makes it impossible for his detractors to question him “off the field” only “on the field”.

As Deion Sanders once said there are a lot of “Yes Men” around, but you need to have a “No Man”. Cameron has no one to tell him how he should handle adversity, because frankly when he has gotten in trouble before nothing has ever happened and he was winning throughout.

Winning masks a lot of things, while losing exposes them.

On the field Cameron’s numbers are virtually the same as last year, but this isn’t about numbers, this is about perception.

The perception last year was that what he was doing was amazing and the perception this year is that he isn’t doing enough. This is causing a debate that is more heated than Romney vs. Obama and similar to politics the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

The elephant in the room that seems to be taboo is the train of thought that Cameron’s race is a factor in his criticism. Interesting thing about those who say he is being treated unfairly are using his race as a shield from valid criticism.

That is hypocrisy and doesn’t help Cameron at all.  Don’t race bait, it is a lazy form of reporting.  Racism will always be around, but the majority of people who are truly racist and making those type of comments are idiots who hate their own lives, they don’t represent the majority and definitely not the media.

Mainstream media isn’t racist, they are just ignorant to certain things and it makes them sound racist.  Also, just like mainstream society they are influenced by stereotypes and it comes out in their reporting.  Once again that isn’t racist, just ignorance.  Don’t get the two confused.

People get upset if you compare a black quarterback to another black quarterback, but what if the shoe fits? We can’t pretend that Vince Young didn’t come into the league after a National Championship, had a lot of early success and then emotionally the wheels came off. That is a SOUND comparison that anyone can make, who cares if they are both black if the situations are similar?

Cameron being a crossover star who has invited all this attention on himself is much bigger factor than his race. I see how Mark Sanchez, Jay Cutler, any quarterback playing in Arizona, Carson Palmer and the list goes on are treated.

Mark Sanchez has been to two AFC Championships in three years and is MURDERED by the press for his on and off the field activities, so his race isn’t given him any preferential treatment.

Starting quarterback in the NFL is one of the most glamorous positions in the world. You are going to get criticized.  If they criticized Joe Montana, I don’t think Cameron Newton is going to get a pass, regardless if the criticisms are fair or not.

I saw this coming last year and made a point of saying that Cameron had to stay focused, not get caught up in the adulation and win games.

Right now, he seems overwhelmed and no one is there to talk to him, so I hope he is reading this and takes notes.

Cameron you are the starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, it doesn’t matter what I, the media or fans think, your job is to lead your team.

When you show weakness it trickles down to the team. Leaders don’t pout, they stand tall and overcome adversity. The media are baiting you, your post game press conferences are being dissected like Romney’s tax returns (if we can find them). It is time you learn to shoulder roll and stop opening yourself to continually being left hooked by the media.

Don’t call female reporters “sweetheart”, don’t ask for suggestion boxes, don’t slump, don’t sound like someone just took your Buzz Lightyear toy when you talk, keep your eyes open and remember you are the one who does the Superman dance so stop acting like Clark Kent……..

PS: RG3 Bookmark this article for 2013.

5 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Cameron Newton, Why Race isn’t a Factor, But Ignorance Is

  • That was a well written assessment of the love-hate relationship with Cam. I think you are correct with the league learning Cam’s on-field weaknesses and using it to its advantage. I hope Cam makes the necessary changes and RG3 takes notes.

  • Great article! I couldn’t believe that warren moon played the race card on the Cam situation. Great point about his performance mirroring last year’s, but his attitude is really the blame. He is whinning way too much and acting like a complete baby.

  • Very interesting and thorough article, Mr. Littal.

    As a black man, my criticisms of Cam Newton are far from being racially based. It’s his ignorance that I want to segregate myself from.

    Look, save from talk radio and tabloids in big cities, most sports fans get their information from ESPN. And whatever ESPN decides to remind us of daily is what we’ll think about. Nobody thinks about Newton’s robbery charge anymore. Nobody thinks about his three incidents of academic cheating. And nobody thinks about his dad’s alleged pay-for-play scheme with Auburn.

    What we think about now is Newton’s post-game press conferences. First we see it after the Panthers’ highlight because it’s captivating television. Then Mike & Mike break it down. Then Skip and Stephen a take a baseball bat to it. Then it LeBatard cracks jokes about it. Then it goes Around the Horn. Wilbon and Kornheiser. SportsNation. Et cetera.

    And I can’t blame ESPN. It’s sexy television. Cam Newton, the player who smiles with his mouth entirely open after every 8-yard scramble like a 12-year-old boy… the player who looks into the crowd for reassurance that they’re still looking at him after every first down like a 12-year-old boy… the player who doesn’t recognize that his Superman TD celebration while down three touchdowns is as tacky as his post-game etiquette… this guy, or better yet, the downfall of this guy is sexy television.

    When PFW’s Nolan Nawrocki absolutely blasted Newton in a scouting report a year-and-a-half ago, the black community was astonished. But a lot of the things Nawrocki said were spot on. “Disingenuous, comes off as very scripted.” Have you heard one of his press conferences? As Mr. Littal pointed out, he even called a female reporter “sweetheart.” If you listen to him speak, he reminds you of an ignorant man (booksmarts-wise) that is trying his best to sound smart, but is too ignorant to realize how ridiculous he sounds. I don’t HATE Cam for that; I don’t think anyone really truly HATES him. But I don’t like it. A “look at me when I do well” athlete is not the kind of athlete I root for. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Michael Jordan and the like, but Cam Newton is way too immature to gain my support.

    It’s not a race issue. He needs to grow up. ESPN knows that. “Sweetheart” knows it. The writer of this article knows it. RGIII even knows it. The only person who seems to be in the dark is Cam Newton himself.

  • I was never impressed with Cam Newton and running. To me it was Michael Vick all over again and Vick never was able to get anywhere in his 5-6 years in ATL –Vick had one good year and that was his first year in the NFL and then it was a lot of bench sitting from being beaten and a lot of injuries and missing games. Neither one have the stamina to get through games to the end and they get beaten down too easily.

    I was furious with the the media and commentators who handled the situation making him a hero cause he had the highest rushing yardage. The guy is a QB not a RB and he throws wild high balls that no one can catch and he in his first year could not win games just like this year but we got worse with him this year–he sits and pouts and disgraces the fan base and no doubt his own team because he sure has become the taunted laughing stock among the players who play against him.

    I just never seen anything like Cam and I get so mad at his behavior that I feel sorry for him but only for a second cause as a father I wonder if he hasn’t been pampered all his life and given his way in everything cause it makes no sense this kid went to 3 colleges.

Comments are closed.