Robbie Vaglio | TCU
No one has more fun playing football than Cam Newton, and that’s evident in his actions on the field. But cameras didn’t always stalk Cam Newton with a positive connotation. During Cam Newton’s first few seasons with the Carolina Panthers, when things weren’t going his way, (which occurred more often than not), he was shown in his infamous position: sulking on the bench, trying to avoid his teammates, and letting the loss get to him way too easily.
In 2011, Cam Newton threw for over 4,000 yards, a rookie record. He was named Rookie of the Year. But after 2 seasons in the NFL, Newton was 13-19 as a starter. He was racking up yards, he wasn’t racking up as many wins. People began to question whether Cam was going to be one of the elite NFL quarterbacks.
It’s easy to take Newton’s sulking as passion for the game and simply how disappointed he is in himself, but his teammates may not view it in the same light. Steve Smith, Panthers’ wide receiver and captain at the time, gave Newton his opinion on the matter at hand, saying, “I watched D.A. and Jimmy (Clausen), they don’t play in 20-something games last year. And they get up and they observe and learn and get those mental reps…I told him, ‘You can get some mental reps or you can sit on that bench and sulk.’” (via ProFootballTalk)
“Half the time it wasn’t me shutting people down because I was thinking they weren’t giving the same effort as me, it was me knowing there were things I could do that could have changed the outcome of the game,” Newton told Yahoo. "I put a lot on me to be able to respond. When things are going wrong, I wanted to have the ball in my hand, just like any warrior, any competitor who has played this game. When you don’t get the results you want, I didn’t go about it the right way.” Newton admits he didn’t know how to lose.
Coming off consecutive National Championships, one at Blinn College in Texas and his second coming at Auburn University, the same year in which he won the Heisman Trophy.
On this issue, Cam immediately took action. As the franchise quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, he knew that it was his job to be a leader, and sulking on the sideline after a mistake wasn’t proper leadership. In 2013, Cam stopped sulking and started leading. On November 18, 2013, Tom Brady’s New England Patriots came into Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Questions of the Panthers and their ability to be a primetime team and Cam Newton’s ability to lead a team against a true primetime opponent led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time circled around the individuals during the week of the game. The Panthers won 24-20. The perception of Cam started to change each week as they were beginning to win, finally, under Cam and he was performing at a high level. Cam’s body language was changing. Instead of sulking on the sideline, he began dancing after touchdowns, giving balls out to kids on the sideline after touchdowns, dabbing, and giving his team a spark by doing the “Superman” celebration.
It’s hard to hate a guy that’s having fun when he plays football, right? Plus, he’s giving footballs away to kids after every touchdown! These dances, however, have sparked controversy across the entire NFL. Many people think they’re excessive. Many think they’re cocky. Especially the mother of a 9-year-old girl, who specifically wrote a letter to the Charlotte Observer about Cam’s dances. Here are some excerpts from her letter: "Because of where we sat, we had a close up view of your conduct in the fourth quarter. The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the ‘in your face’ taunting of both the Titans’ players and fans. We saw it all...And because you are a role model, your behavior brought out like behavior in the stands. Some of the Panthers fans in our section began taunting the hometown fans. Many Titans fans booed you, a few offering instructive, but not necessarily family friendly, suggestions as to how you might change your behavior."
Newton said he meant no disrespect to the Titans. He reminded everyone that he’s "a kid at heart," adding, “I’m not doing it to be disrespectful to nobody, more so just doing it just to shine light and get people a smile and having fun doing what I do."
He also said that if you don’t want him to dance, you should just “keep [him] out of the end zone.” Newton’s on the field actions sparked another letter written to the Charlotte Observer, this time about his actions after the Panthers’ win against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round of the 2016 NFL Playoffs. After Cam Newton kneeled out the remaining time on the clock to secure the win, he celebrated with the home fans in attendance.
During Newton’s victory lap, someone in the stands passed a Seahawks “12th Man” flag down to Newton on the field. Newton balled up the flag threw it on the ground, and continued his lap. A furious Seahawks fan wrote in her letter that Cam “disrespected a community that feeds and clothes the homeless, a community that raises funds for families in hard times, a community that helps three-year-old girls battle cancer, a community that has more grace and respect” than Cam can ever imagine. There are times where the author doesn’t capitalize Cam’s name out of disgust and calls him “classless” countless times. She mentions how Russell Wilson “raises the flag” that Newton shamelessly “threw to the ground like garbage.” She also goes on to say that Seahawks fans “come with class, respect, a love for the game, a willingness to help others, a love for God, and a love for those surrounding us.” These same “classy” Seahawks fans started a petition (change.org) to ban Newton from CenturyLink Field, the Seattle Seahawks’ home field, when the Panthers visit Seattle next season, calling Newton “one of the most unprofessional, unsportsmanlike individuals on the face of the planet.”
They even started a Twitter hashtag: #BanTheCam. However, to call Newton classless is ignorant. Cam Newton created the Cam Newton Foundation to inspire children he meets and give back to the community. Gina Salvati, the vice president of advancement at Communities in Schools, said that, “Cam has- and I don’t know if the world knows this- a genuine heart for kids. It’s not just about the press or what he’s supposed to do. It’s about the way he wants to support kids and the way he wants them to be supported. Many of our kids really feel apart from the world; this is the way our kids can feel part of the world beyond their street.” Veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery is impressed by Newton’s touch. “He’s incredible with that, he’s completely incredible,” Cotchery said. “Really he’s a superstar, but the way he interacts with fans and kids is just an unbelievable deal. Some people are burdened by that, but he interacts with fans and children and it’s cool to see.” Suzanne Evans, the senior administrative secretary at Metro School, works with children who are developmentally disabled.
Some of them can’t communicate verbally, so it isn’t often that there are big-name visitors. A week before Christmas, Newton arrived in his red sweater with “dabbing Santa” on the front and walked into a gym filled with kids, greeting each child, even the ones who couldn’t respond. “It can be challenging for visitors,” Evans said, “because it’s hard to know how much some of the kids are taking in, much less providing a response, but that didn’t stop Newton.” “He took pictures and selfies, he was willing to do anything,” she said. Evans was moved but was even more impressed that this wasn’t Newton’s first visit. “I am not a Panthers fan, but I’m a huge Cam Newton fan,” Evans said. “The things he does in the community here- it’s all with kids.” Every Thanksgiving, Cam Newton holds his annual Thanksgiving Jam. In 2015, Cam fed over 900 impoverished children that rarely are fed a Thanksgiving dinner.
Throughout the league, Cam Newton is judged for his actions on the field. Off the field, it’s hard to dislike the guy. His goal is to “enhance the lives of young people by addressing their socioeconomic, educations, physical, and emotional needs.” Their one manta is “Every 1 Matters.” Cam does not just focus on one aspect of the children’s lives, he aims to better their entire lives. The foundation’s “Every 1 Learns” initiative provides college scholarships for high school seniors who have overcome obstacles and bettered their schools and communities. Hard to dislike a guy that puts himself second. Keep doing what you do, Cam.