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Cam Newton under fire

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The quarterback is often seen as the lifeblood of a football team, representing the attitude and playing style of a franchise and its players. His legacy is remembered by his actions on and off the field, with the media hovering over him like vultures, looking for the slightest reason to stir up controversy.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is no exception. His ascent into stardom has come with a considerable amount of backlash from both former players and hordes of fans living in the fantasy that they know the ins and outs of professional sports. This backlash, however, seems highly unwarranted. Critics dislike everything from dancing to his attitude on the field. People want to see Cam Newton fail, and the Super Bowl was the perfect opportunity for critics to release a flurry of responses meant to further instigate controversy. Many responses took the traditional route, focusing on Newton’s attitude on the field, but there were also a few responses that had racist undertones, most notably by former NFL great Bill Romanowski.

“You will never last in the NFL with that attitude. The world doesn’t revolve around you, boy!” Romanowski’s tweet is a perfect representation of an attitude that is still ever present in both former and current NFL players. The word “boy,” although seemingly innocent, is a derogatory term for black men. Like Romanowski, who defended his tweet by twisting the meaning to suggest that Newton needs to grow up, many people see the word as simply a way of criticizing Newton’s “boyish” attitude when playing. While this explanation is plausible, the fact that the words are coming from Romanowski is what sets it apart from more innocent statements.

Romanowski himself is notable for spitting in opponents’ faces and even being accused by former teammates of being a racist. Romanowski, who could be seen as just a typical jerk on and off the field, represents a bigger problem in the NFL and other professional sports. The problem is not simply that racism is present among players, owners and fans, but that the NFL and other professional organizations seem to lack the disposition to address race issues and discipline those who make racist comments.

A comparison between Newton’s reception and that of his opponent, veteran Peyton Manning, shows the double standard in the NFL. For example, Newton was criticized for leaving a press conference early, even though the Denver Broncos defense was being interviewed about how it would stop Newton. This response was seen as “boyish,” with many analysts claiming that Manning would have dealt with the situation more maturely. In contrast, Manning’s post-game interview took a different turn. After being asked what he would be doing after the game, Manning responded, “I’m gonna drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Terry.” It is apparently fine for a veteran to say something as straightforward as this, but it is hard to believe that Newton would have received the same leeway that Manning did.

A final question is whether we should even pay heed to comments like Romanowski’s. It is well known that he is a jerk, and the Super Bowl was a perfect opportunity for him to do what he does best. Do we pay attention to his racist comments? In short, yes. Romanowski’s remarks shed light on a problem that is bigger than him and will continue to plague players such as Cam Newton on and off the field if it is not stopped.

hatzky1@stolaf.edu