It is an uncomfortable fact that deep-seated racism runs through every level of American society, and nowhere is that more clear than in American football, where black athletes sacrifice their bodies and their futures for white America’s amusement — but they still get trashed for being themselves and showing individuality.
The NFL’s 2015 MVP, Cam Newton, has long been a polarizing figure in the sports world for having the audacity to dress in his uniquely flamboyant style and for his on-the-field celebrations, where he is famous for the “dab” move and mimicking Superman when he scores a touchdown.
Newton recently signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots, Donald Trump’s favorite football team, and not even two days passed before Boston sports radio was busy huffing and puffing over how much they despised Newton’s on the field celebrations and fantasizing about how head coach Bill Belichick was going to put this uppity young man in his place.
“How about the culture?” worries Michael Felger on 985 the Sports Hub. “All the celebration and the showboating on the field. They don’t want you doing that here. Cam Newton has celebrated more than any other player in the league over the past decade. Something as simple and innocuous as that, think he’ll be able to contain it?”
When his partner, Tony Massaroti, says that he thinks the coach will let it slide, Felger gets himself all worked up. “I hope he DOESN’T. I LIKE that about the Patriots. I LIKE THAT…I like that they don’t ride each other like ponies. I like that they don’t WASTE our time…NO DICE on the Superman!” whines Felger.
“Do you think this guy can contain himself? In terms of dabbing in the endzone, what he wears, the Superman thing…” asks Massaroti.
Felger & Mazz (@985TheSportsHub) discuss how Bill Belichick will deal with Cam Newton's on-field celebrations.
You probably won't make it through this entire clip. pic.twitter.com/1CcLXvsplK
— Funhouse (@BackAftaThis) July 1, 2020
It’s not hard to read between the lines here and figure out just what it is about Cam Newton that makes them worry he is a threat to the culture of the New England Patriots (which is notoriously oppressive and resented by the players) and to wonder whether he can “contain it.”
“Shut up and take the next snap!” spits Felger at one point about Newton, echoing the demand of white supremacist Laura Ingraham that LeBron James “shut up and dribble” after he criticized Donald Trump.
These mealy white football nerds who have never been tackled in their lives are intimidated and made uncomfortable by the sight of a strong black man succeeding at quarterback and expressing himself in celebration. They aren’t happy that their wonderbread icon of robotic whiteness, ex-quarterback Tom Brady, has left for greener pastures — partially because of that “culture” that the knuckle-dragging fans love to tout but the players hate.
Newton has spent his entire career dogged by criticism that he’s a “diva” and a “preening schmo” for having the audacity to be anything but quiet and grateful for the opportunity that the Benevolent League has bestowed upon him.
“After his rise to quarterback fame for the Carolina Panthers, people took offense to his celebratory dances; Newton was advised to instead give the ball to a child when he was done. The implication was that he should play on American sentimentality around childhood innocence and all would be fine. Share the moment with the children and you will be able to have your moment, because the win, Cam Newton, was never about you. You are a means to an end that does not include you,” writes Claudia Rankine about Newton for the Undefeated.
Curiously, Felger and Mazz never have the same criticisms about the other player they reference in the clip, Rob Gronkowski, who is famous for his air-humping “Gronk Spike” celebration and for behaving like a drunken frat boy the moment the season ends.
Lol ok dude pic.twitter.com/P1cviRRdsb
— notTWagner (@twag86) July 1, 2020
The real kicker that proves this is not about the “celebrations” of Cam Newton is the fact that these men, whose entire careers have been spent talking about Patriots football, don’t have a clue how Bill Belichick actually feels about player celebrations.
Here’s Belichick’s thoughts on celebrations. I’m sure Felger or Mazz didn’t take the time to watch “A Football Life” of the guy that’s been the head football coach of the NFL team in their market the entire time they’ve been on air.pic.twitter.com/G8RS0lKTaA
— Matt McDonough (@McDTwin1) July 1, 2020
Racism in America comes in many forms and levels of severity. While these complaints by these cranky old radio farts may be pretty tame, they represent the double standards that the white media and white America holds for its black and white athletes — and it’s only by confronting racism at every level of American society will we be able to make real progress in making things right.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.