by Peyton Gallaher
The Cam Newton phenomenon has meant to the common sports fan the signaling of a new generation of not only quarterbacks but athletes in general. He’s a revelation, a paradigm-shifter with no agenda but to be himself. He’s different. His personality is the source of many a hot take for sure but that’s just him just being him. For once, we have an NFL quarterback who is real and it’s completely enamoring.
It is understood that this is Cam’s world and we are just living in it… it’s as if baby Hercules descended from the clouds of Mount Olympus and landed squarely in the lap of Broadway Joe Namath to be raised as his own.
When the Panthers score, Newton makes it a point to find a kid to give the ball to. When he speaks to the media he’s always wearing something lavish. Fox tails run through his belt loops to suits that look like they were once the upholstery on an ugly couch at Martha’s Vineyard.
What if Peyton Manning did that? Newton’s son is named Chosen Sebastian Newton. That’s not conventional for anyone, let alone a face-of-the-franchise NFL quarterback.
The bottom line is Cam’s a 6-foot-5 245 pound, dabbing monster that makes NFL defensive coordinators age a decade to the year.
He’s not Tom Brady or Dan Marino. Cam is different. He’s ostentatious and extremely fun to watch play, but that’s nothing too new to the NFL.
The question remains as such: does Cam polarize the sports world because he’s a black QB having real success?
History tells us that white athletes have dominated the quarter back position since the beginning of the game. The brick layers, guys like Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, and Lenny Dawson are all white. There is nothing wrong with this fact but it is the undeniable reality.
To most football fans these names conjure up imagery of gunslingers with long sleeved jerseys and one lone bar crossing their helmet running around in the mud. This was the clear blue print for the stereotypical QB.
As the game developed and grew up, a mold was set reflecting the reality of the era. Segregation was still a very real thing when the NFL kicked up in 1919 and pro football was a reflection of the time.
The prototype white QB from the dino-days of the league initially formed a preordained kinship that married white players to the QB spot for NFL teams. A polarizing stigma was created right from the jump severely damaging the pool of black players learning how to play quarterback.
However, like in most post-MLK American work places, slowly and surely black players carved into the game. Eventually, Jackie Robinson, among others, cut a trail for black athletes to follow. Starting at a crawl, the game followed the trail forward and black players integrated.
In spite of this, despite massive contribution to professional football, quarterback remained a predominantly white only position. This only began to change when in 1968 Marlin Briscoe was the first black player to take a snap as a starting NFL quarterback.
The moment Briscoe ran his first play the stigma against black QBs began to fade on a grueling 30 year journey. With meticulous work the position has transitioned from that point on. As of 2013, there were 20 black QBs on NFL rosters and in 2015, there were six black regular starters (Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Russel Wilson, Collin Kaepernick, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston).
Certainly there is still a discrepancy between white and black QBs in the NFL, but there has been a noticeable shift towards the middle over the last 50 years. In truth, although it may be painted differently, the black-white dichotomy of quarterback has really dissolved specifically over the last few decades.
With Cam Newton it has been publicized that Cam is a champion for this generation of black QBs. Cam is illustrated as a polarizing freedom fighter that breaks molds and shatters stereotypes.
Let’s make this clear, no dab or touchdown can break down a wall of racism or prejudice.
Cam Newton is black, but that doesn’t define him as an athlete. He’s a QB, but that doesn’t really say much. Cam Newton is different but not because of his color, Cam’s character sets him apart from all of the QBs before him. Cam Newton never asked for this. He’s just another 26 year old who’s is living a dream.
In 2015, he had an absolutely sensational season for a guy who is still growing in this league. Forty-five total TDs and 4,500 plus yards. One of the best seasons for any QB in recent memory, not just black ones.
With his 2015 campaign, Cam announced his candidacy to be the face of the league for the foreseeable future and it’s about time we put down the pitchforks and respect what the man has done this year and will do in the future.
Does it mean that Cam Newton is a perfect human that should be void of criticism? No, not at all. He’s an NFL QB. He’s going to be criticized like anyone else but he’s not deserving of pure disdain or pure satisfaction for that matter.
He’s a black QB, but that’s not what makes Cam good or bad. People want to make it a race war. It’s not. He’s Cam Newton. A man, a father, and a rising superstar. Race doesn’t matter. Cam Newton is just comfortable in his own skin.