As Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton prepares for the biggest football game of his life since leading the Auburn Tigers to college football’s national championship in 2011, he is, for some reason, being shadowed by a cloud of hate.
If one listens to the bevy of detractors that have come out against him, the 26-year-old is, apparently, everything that’s wrong with the NFL. He is obnoxious, he celebrates too much, he is too loud and he is simply setting a bad example for today’s impressionable youth.
Earlier this season, a Tennessee mother sent the Charlotte Observer a letter blasting Newton for being a terrible role model to her 9-year-old daughter after the Panthers’ QB did a little too much “chest puffing,” “pelvic thrusts” and “arrogant struts” during a game against the Titans.
“I don’t know about your family life, Mr. Newton, but I think I’m safe in saying thousands of kids watch you every week. You have amazing talent and an incredible platform to be a role model for them. Unfortunately, what you modeled for them today was egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship. Is that what your coaches and mentors modeled for you, Mr. Newton?” the letter concluded.
It’s true that Newton plays with extreme passion and can get carried away sometimes with his end zone celebrations. But so what? Why does that make Cam such a bad guy?
J.J. Watt, who is just as obnoxious and celebrates just as much, if not more than Newton, is NFL’s golden boy and can do no wrong. Why hasn’t The Houston Chronicle received any complaints about him?
The same goes for Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. How many times do fans have to watch him do that stupid State Farm double check move? Talk about obnoxious.
Heck, even Johnny Manziel took less heat over his ridiculous show-me-the-money thing. Now there’s something fans should have been upset about.
Some football analysts and sports pundits have tired to make it a racial issue, saying that the fact Newton is black is the reason for the hate.
Others have concluded it’s a generational thing. Older fans simply aren’t accustomed to seeing NFL quarterbacks act like him.
Even Newton said earlier this week, “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”
That may be to an extent. He is one of the most talented and mobile duel-threat quarterbacks the NFL has seen in years. However, he’s not unique and race or age has nothing to do with why some people don’t like him.
The bottom line is that unless you are a Carolina Panthers fan, you either love him or you hate him.
Every professional athlete has detractors to one degree or another.
Tom Brady is arguably one of the most successful quarterbacks in the NFL, but most people hate him with a passion. He’s smug, arrogant and cries to the refs all the time.
Peyton Manning, Newton’s opponent in next week’s Super Bowl, is universally known as a good guy. Yet even Peyton has people that don’t like him.
So while it may seem like Newton is taking an unfair amount of criticism, he’s really not. He’s simply enduring the life of a successful athlete and, like the saying goes, success breeds contempt.
Just wait and see what happens if he leads the Panthers to victory next week. He’ll still have his supporters and he’ll still have those who hate him.
He’ll also have a Super Bowl ring. Like it or not.
Dave Favila is sports editor of the Valley Morning Star. Follow him on Twitter @dfavila