Cam Newton believes that race influences the way he is perceived by sections of the public.
“I’ve said this since day one,’’ Newton told reporters on Wednesday. “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.’’
The Carolina Panthers quarterback has led his team to this season’s Super Bowl, and is the clear favorite to be named NFL MVP. But he has come under fire down the years for perceived misdemeanours such as over exuberant celebrations. Last year, one woman wrote a letter to a local newspaper saying she was concerned Newton’s “chest puffs” and “pelvic thrusts” would corrupt her daughter.
Newton, who has also attracted praise for his charity work, added that he did not intend to change his character. “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?”
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said it would be “terrible” if race was behind the criticisms of Newton and added that the player wanted to be judged for his achievements on the field.
“People should be scared of a quarterback with his skill set more than anything else,’’ he said. “That’s who he is. He’s a tremendously gifted athlete, a terrific quarterback, a smart football player, the list goes on and on. That’s what they should be concerned about more than anything else. I don’t think he wants to be known as an African American quarterback. I think he wants to be known as a quarterback, and a great one at that.
Rivera added: “People want to tag me as a Hispanic head coach. That’s great, but I want to be tagged as a head coach. It really should be about your merit more than anything else, what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done.”
Newton’s post-touchdown celebrations have become famous, and Rivera added that he believed his exuberance makes the Panthers a stronger unit. “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.”
Newton has had the best season of his career. In the regular season he threw 35 touchdowns and rushed for 10 more. In the playoffs he has led the Panthers to wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals. “The thing about Cam is, as he said, he’s special, he’s different,” said Rivera.
“How many 6ft 5in quarterbacks do you see like him, 260 [pounds], running like he does and throwing like he does? He’s different. And I think that’s the only thing people should say is the skill set is different more so than anything else.”
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 27th January 2016 22.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010