Cynics can roll their eyes all they want when it comes to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and the topic of race and culture, but he’s a big part of an important discussion. Newton is many things. He’s a freak of nature at quarterback, the likes of which the league hasn’t seen before. He has a big personality and isn’t afraid to show it on the football field. And he’s black. When you put those things together, Newton isn’t so easily accepted by some.
Because Newton is on his way to Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos, the race question— or something resembling it — is going to come up multiple times. When asked by a reporter why he’s such a “lightning rod” for criticism, Newton responded honestly with, “I think this is a trick question.”
Newton is in a tough spot, to be sure. If he answers honestly, he gets blasted for using the “race card.” If he gives a stock answer, he’s being as disingenuous as he was (wrongly) made out to be in the brutal scouting report written by Nolan Nawrocki in 2011.
Here’s a portion of Newton’s answer as transcribed by NFL.com:
Nothing’s pretty much changed. They talk about maturity with me. They talk about skill set with this team. Nobody has changed. It’s been the same Ted Ginn that was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. The same Jerricho Cotchery, the same Philly Brown, the same Cam Newton. Nothing’s changed. The only thing that’s changed is that we’re winning.
I’ve said it since Day 1, 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. Oftentimes, it’s funny, I get inspired, it makes me go out there and practice even harder because I remember when I was working out for the draft and I would see the Senior Bowl playing, I see these guys out there busting their tails, trying to get drafted, trying to have a job to provide for their family or themselves and it’s like, here I am, I’m doing exactly what I want to do, how I want to do it.