Cam Newton: The (Un)acceptable Kind of Black Superstar

Admit it.

If you are one of the (few) people that dislike Cameron Newton - for whatever reason you have concocted in your brain - admit it, its probably because... you know... HE'S BLACK.

Now that we have got that out of the way, let's explore a little deeper. You probably took my first statement as a condemnation of your character and the logical precursor to the labeling of you as a certified racist. That couldn't be any further from the truth. Reality is, you (probably)  aren't. There is a good chance that you have gotten over the whole "black quarterbacks are genetically inferior" argument a long time ago. You probably aren't the person that has the arbitrary negro on standby to serve as a quota when the time comes that you have to profess your anti-racist sentiment. You may even own a Russell Wilson jersey. That doesn't change the fact that your disdain for Cam Newton is rooted in his blackness.

How can the two thought processes not be interdependent? How can you not be considered racist while, at the same time, dislike someone because of race? It boils down to your comfortability with a specific type of blackness. If you have found yourself saying something to the nature of: "I don't know what it is about him", "I can't put my finger on it", or "something about him rubs me the wrong way", you likely fall into this group.

You see, for the past twenty-five years - from Doug Williams, to Warren Moon, to Randall Cunningham, to Russell Wilson - African American quarterbacks have tried to defy the stigma that has been associated with playing that position. For the most part,  breaking down those racial barriers had much less to do with physical athleticism and on-field performance, and more to deal with acquiescing to the Caucasian perception of what the "acceptable negro" resembles. The "acceptable negro"  qualifications aren't exactly easy to identify, nor are they a set standard. Instead, they are a moving target of expectations translated through vague "intangibles". Leadership, for example. Poise. Integrity. All of these characteristics - often used to point out the greatness of Caucasian athletes - are typically the crux of critical commentary when discussing minority quarterbacks and athletes in general. But back to that moving target of intangibles.

What exactly does leadership look? It depends on WHO you are looking at. Tom Brady has made it a natural habit to quarrel with teammates on the sideline, argue with the coaching staff, and even curse out officials after games. Does anyone question his leadership? Dez Bryant on the other hand? Enough said. Integrity? Nobody holds Ben Roethlisberger's multiple rape allegations against him, but, to this day, people still boycott Mike Vick games for killing dogs nearly a decade ago, and Ray Rice will likely never see a professional field again.  Few black quarterbacks have been able to break through the inequities of intangible designation enough to be considered "acceptable" by the by the "masses". One such name comes to mind as of recently: Russell Wilson.

Russell Wilson is the product of private secondary schooling from an affluent, suburban neighborhood. He has a huge smile, he speaks with an air of properness, and his hair... um... curls in a different pattern than most. He frequents the White House for black tie events, and has even managed to turn an industry girl into the epitome of femininity. One of the first signs Wilson was going to be great in the league, according to ESPN pundits, was his (wait for it) leadership, poise, and intelligence he displayed in Rookie training camp. Before the end of the summer he was promoted to team captain and eventually led his team to a Superbowl victory in only his second year.  

Cam Newton is not Russell Wilson.


Cam Newton is certifiably country. He is a product of Atlanta, Georgia; the South oozes through his pores. He trades in White House visits for photo ops with urban royalty Future and Young Jeezy. At press conferences he is as dapper, as well dressed as he can possibly be while he comments on the intricacies and complexities of "slow cooked collard greens". When Cam was drafted first in his draft class, all those "intangibles" Wilson was praised for, were staples of criticism for Newton. The same huge smile Wilson flashed was labeled "disingenuous" on Cam's face. Pundits questioned Newton's leadership despite leading both his Junior College and College teams to National Championships in successive years. They questioned his ability to make the "smart decision" and said he relied too much on his "athleticism". 

For some of you, the difference between Russell and Cameron isn't race alone... its your level of acceptance for a certain type of black. Wilson is comfortable, acceptable. He isn't physically imposing; on the surface, he appears to probably like the same things you like: alternative music, art galleries, motivational speeches on tape. Cam Newton is not that guy to you. He's a different type of black. Cam dances, flexes, and laughs his way to victory. He's the big black guy with a god-like physical stature. On the surface, he personifies everything you dislike about black culture (not the same as black people). Its the difference between Carlton and Will entering the country club with Uncle Phil (RIP). Both are from the same genetic makeup, but one, you would offer a job as an executive, while the other, you would be pissed off if your daughter brought him home.

The problem is, you can't look past the surface. Dig deeper. Cam Newton is everything you want him to be. He is team-first in his approach to everything. He is not RG3. He doesn't throw teammates under the bus at the first sign of turmoil; since his inception into the league he has taken ownership for all of the teams failures and none of their successes. In front of the camera, like Wilson, like Brady, like Manning and Rodgers, he tows the company line, says the right thing, takes on the world with a seriousness and a smile that few have seen. He just says it a little more... Southernly. On the field, the team gravitates towards him, they follow his lead, and they match his level of intensity and excitement at every turn. When he scores, he's not Terrell Owens, hes philanthropic. Yes he dances, but he also brightens the day (and life) of an unsuspecting child each and every time. Lest we forget his one of a kind talent and God-given physical ability.


So why, exactly, do you hate him?

We've seen how you adore those with similar personalities and less talent. Take someone with all of the intangibles of Cam Newton, remove half of his talent level, and half of his on-field productivity... you have Tim Tebow. Both were drafted in the same year. One is in the Superbowl, the other can't find a job. However, still to this day, if polled, some would prefer Tebow be the face of their team over Newton. Is it the Dab? The celebrations? The "arrogance"? But, yet, you don't have a problem with the "Discount Doublecheck". In fact, you made a multi-million dollar campaign off of Aaron Rodgers' declaration that he is "the best".

Wilson's "blackness" is no less genuine as Cam Newton's. This is not an indictment on or the endorsement of the authenticity of either (relax light skinned people). This is merely an acknowledgement that the two are drastically different, and, most likely, it is the reason for the differentiation between the two's acceptability among certain circles. Lets be honest, at this point you can blame whatever you want for your dislike of Cam Newton. Reality is, its not him... Its you. Cam said it best, he scares a lot of people. He is in your face, unapologetic, and he probably makes you a bit uncomfortable. And its great.