We all watched the character assassination of Cam Netwon in his post Super Bowl 50 loss, as he was berated by the press for not being a “good sport.” The outpouring of criticism was a reminder that somehow in all the fanfare, people forget these heroes are still humans.
Underlying those critical remarks was the sting of racism, as revered sports commentators and NFL peers lambasted the athlete for his exit; linebacker Bill Romanowski even went as far as tweeting that Newtown was a “boy.”
It was apparent the mantle of being the sixth Black quarterback to start in the NFL’s history comes marked with honor and inherent criticism that goes beyond his on-field performance — it’s skin deep.
That’s why his recent comments to GQ are surprising as well as confusing.
He said in an interview with Zach Baron that he believes those who are critical of him aren’t driven by racism, adding, “We’re beyond that, as a nation.
“It’s not racism. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. I don’t look at it like that. I look at it like some people have certain beliefs, and I have my own belief, and we can agree to disagree on certain things. But this is what makes sports so amazing, that we can start a discussion around a table, in the newspaper, in the magazines, that will get people’s attention. And that’s what sports does.”
Criticism, is no new feature in the world of sports commentary, but the particular language aimed at Black athletes is distinguishable. Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman was labeled a “thug” at one point, and Marshawn Lynch was berated for being noncompliant during press conferences.
But Peyton Manning, in all his White privilege, was allowed to leave Super Bowl 44 early before he and the Indiana Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints.
Given this background, Newton’s recent statement America being beyond racism is problematic. It reeks of lethargy in the age of political correctness over raw honesty. Maybe he’s tired of having the conversation after having it so many times. Maybe he would like his athleticism to proceed his skin color.
But simply ignoring race in a time where Donald Trump is riding hate as his campaign carpet and Black Lives Matter movement still has to explain why Black lives matter is one of the least heroic things the football player has done.