Cam Newton is not your father’s quarterback. He is a fun-loving, flamboyant-dressing, dab-dancing, Southern-sounding, in-your-face figure of black awesomeness who is rubbing white journalists all kinds of raw.
Recently, Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel let all his whiteness show when he tweeted this:
And then, after thoroughly dismantling the Arizona Cardinals, Newton told the press gallery that he knew the process was going to be long like “slow-cooked collard greens.”
“This has been a process,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be instant grits. It was going to be like long, slow-cooked collard greens. I think those collard greens are brewing right now. You can smell them from 100 miles away.”
When he speaks like this and uses our language, he isn’t talking to the gaggle of white reporters who now fawn over the man whose ability many doubted. He is speaking directly to his people—to us. And for Newton, it’s always been about us.
The dab is for us.
The outfits are for us.
Saying “this, that and the third” is for us.
Cam Newton is the living embodiment of the black American experience, from how he talks and walks to how he dresses. Don’t believe me, go to any black church anywhere in this country and listen to the tenor of the preacher’s voice and witness the flash of the outfits and tell me that it’s not for us. His embrace of blackness, so fullhearted, is why we are so defensive of him. We are aware that he is the Carolinas, that he is “us” and was ours long before he became theirs.
But Wetzel isn’t the only white reporter who doesn’t get it. That this “dab” isn’t for them. Newton’s been confounding and confusing white reporters for years.
Which is why black Twitter has come for and found Jim Folsom, the author of the 2011 hack piece “Cam Newton: Why Carolina Panthers’ New QB Is the Worst NFL Draft Pick Ever.” Don’t bother reading it, because it is arguably the worst piece of sportswriting ever, and I can break down the essence of the article as white tears cascading down during some “I hate Cam” toddler babble. I’m sure his outline for the piece looked something like this:
1. Cam is stupid.
2. Cam is not a real (read: white) quarterback.
3. Cam is Vince Young.
4. Cam is Ryan Leaf.
5. Cam is no Tim Tebow.
If it were just a Cam Newton hit piece, black Twitter wouldn’t have wasted its time, but here are the two sections that really got them moving. The first paragraph reads as follows:
Cam Newton is a sure-fire bust. I am so certain of this that if he is the Panthers’ starting quarterback in 2016, I will buy a Cam Newton jersey and stand in the stadium parking lot in my underwear when the Panthers come to Tampa Bay and hold a sign proclaiming that Auburn rules over Florida and Carolina rules over Tampa Bay.
The last two paragraphs exclaim this:
Let’s ask Denver Broncos fans if they would like to trade Tebow for Newton straight up. They would laugh in your face. Football fans know even if the experts have no clue. We can spot a fraud when we see one.
In five years, when Tebow is leading Denver into the playoffs and Cam Newton is riding someone’s bench, remember this article.
Reporters like Folsom ask for this. He literally asked that readers “remember this article.” He also stated quite arrogantly that he would “stand in the stadium parking lot in my underwear … ” How can I say this nicely? While no one wants to see Folsom’s pasty white legs outside their stadium, they do want him to be a man of his word.
But here is what black Twitter and black America have come to expect from those who try to tear us down: Critics like Folsom are unparalleled. Folsom’s scathing critique of the then-teen was unwarranted and shameful, but he knew this when he wrote it. The overarching theme of the piece was racist, and he knew that, too. Folsom wasn’t judging Newton on his talents; he was judging him on what he believed him to be even after Newton walked off Auburn’s field as the nation’s top college player.
There will be several storylines going into this Super Bowl: old vs. young, black vs. white, potential MVP vs. sure-bet Hall of Famer, but race will be at the top of it all when they talk about Newton’s clothes, or his swagger, or his ability. Just make sure, when white reporters are writing their think pieces in an attempt to dismantle and unpack Newton’s unapologetic blackness, that they also mention his winning percentage and his pocket passer rating. Hands down, he has been the best player on the best football team this year, but white media will have you believe otherwise.
My hope is that I will be watching Newton dab and dance through the torrential downpour of white tears that will surely be shed, including the secret shedding of Folsom’s tears in the privacy of his own home.
Those tears will be better than his proposed and surely unfulfilled public humiliation.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.