Time to bury race component in NFL

Cam Newton, you don’t scare me.

But I understand your point, misguided as it may be.

“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,” the Carolina quarterback said with a kind of bravado that seems to impassion and irritate.

Overblown? Certainly. But Newton always has cast a bigger shadow than even his 6-foot-5 frame. I suspect it is a bigger issue with reporters asking the question and knowing they will get a response like that above.

Still, in 2016, many still may not be able to fully embrace the idea. Historically, the quarterback position was the prime domain of the white athlete.

It is time to get over it, if for no other reason than it is no longer true.

Newton’s color hardly sets him apart. This is the fourth straight Super Bowl in which a black quarterback started (Colin Kaepernick in 2013 and Russell Wilson in 2014 and 2015).

Doug Williams wasn’t born yesterday. It has been 28 years since the Redskins quarterback became the first African- American to lead an NFL team in the Super Bowl, defeating John Elway and the Broncos 42-10.

So let’s bury the race thing. Yes, Newton is immature, with a penchant for sulking. Yes, Newton is pompous, posing for photos on the sidelines during blowouts.

This season he’s torn down banners, thrown 12th Man flags, danced in the end zone and more that’s caused him to be endeared by Panther fans and loathed by others.

He also is an incredibly gifted football player, one who has refined his raw skills and become an effective drop-back passer and signal-caller. Seriously, is there a better quarterback in the league right now? It is tough to argue with 17-1.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said what Newton is doing on the field — not his color — should scare people.

“People should be scared of a quarterback with his skill set more than anything else,” he told ESPN. “That’s who he is. He’s a tremendously gifted athlete, a terrific quarterback, a smart football player … the list goes on and on. That’s what they should be concerned about more than anything else. … I don’t think he wants to be known as an African-American quarterback. I think he wants to be known as a quarterback, and a great one at that.”

Rivera knows about exceeding the expectations of race. He is the second person of Hispanic descent to be the head coach in a Super Bowl (Tom Flores of the Raiders was the first).

“People want to tag me as a Hispanic head coach,” he said. “That’s great, but I want to be tagged as a head coach. It really should be about your merit more than anything else, what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done. That’s how we should judge people and base people.”


The difference between Newton and those that came before him is he’s 6-5 and 260 pounds with a gifted arm and even more gifted legs. His run/pass abilities make him a challenge to defend.

It would be easy to turn this Super Bowl narrative into a two-week tale of old, respectful, white Peyton Manning versus young, brash, black Newton. Don’t give in to that, no matter how much the talking radioheads spin it.

We have hopefully grown beyond that as a society.

This is about two quarterbacks — one who is great and the other who may be — doing battle against the two best defenses in the NFL. Will quick reads or quick feet take the day?

There is much to anticipate in this matchup. Race should not be part of the equation.

Cam Newton, you don’t scare me.

Author photo
Bob Johnson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.