CHARLOTTE – Cam Newton knows he has plenty of detractors outside the Carolinas. In fact, he might be more criticized than any other player in today’s NFL.
But why is the Panthers quarterback judged so harshly? Many of his critics might say it’s because of Newton’s in-game celebrations, including his Superman poses and dabbing.
Newton isn’t so sure. On Wednesday, he said part of the reason might have to do with race.
“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to,” he told reporters during his weekly media session at Bank of America Stadium.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he hoped that wasn’t the case, adding it would be “terrible” if race played a factor.
“You figure in this time and day and age it would be more about who he is as an athlete and a person more than anything else,” he said.
Rivera said if anything about Newton should scare people, it’s that a quarterback with his skill set exists.
“That’s who he is,” Rivera said. “He’s a tremendously gifted athlete, a terrific quarterback, a smart football player. That’s who people should be concerned with more than anything else.”
Newton, wearing a white long-sleeve shirt with a Superman logo on the front and the word “TEAM” where the nameplate would go – along with a No. 1 filled with the names of his teammates – fielded several questions about how he’s perceived outside the Panthers’ fan base.
No one is perfect, he said, and everyone has done things in their past that could be used against them.
The only way Newton knows how to succeed is by being himself, and he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to do so.
“It’s like here I am, I’m doing exactly what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when I look in the mirror, it’s me,” he said. “Nobody changed me, nobody made me act this certain way, and I’m true to my roots. But yet people are going to say whatever they’re going to say.
“If I’m in this world living for that person, then I can’t look at myself and say I’m Cam Newton – or Cameron Newton to most people – because I’m not. I’m living for you, you know what I’m saying?”
Newton’s attitude – which has rubbed off on the rest of the locker room – is exactly what Rivera wants. The coach was part of the 1985 Chicago Bears team that won the Super Bowl after releasing the “Super Bowl Shuffle” song midway through the season, and he’s not about to ask his team to change its personality in the face of criticism now.
“People think you should be stoic when you play this game,” Rivera said. “I think you should be able to come out and have fun. This is a kid’s game. I know there’s a lot of money involved, but at the end of the day it’s about entertainment and having fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, don’t play the game. It’s that simple.”