Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been dancing on the field all season, but he’s done dancing around the divisive topic of what makes him so polarizing.
Newton lay bare Wednesday in the lead-up to Super Bowl 50 what he believes is the reason why he’s been such a lightning rod for criticism in his career. From pre-draft critiques in 2011 to a Tennessee mother in 2015, Newton has drawn the ire of a number of NFL fans and observers over the years.
“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,” Newton said.
With a victory against the Denver Broncos in less than two weeks, Newton would become the third African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl. Newton said he’s comfortable in the position he’s in now and could not “care less what you say” about him.
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This season he’s torn down banners, thrown 12th Man flags, danced in the end zone, continued taking pictures on the sideline during most of Carolina’s 17 wins and more that’s caused him to be endeared by many and loathed by others.
“Whether you win, lose or draw, people are going to talk,” Newton said.
“Now the true fans -- they know what’s up. They’re going to be supportive whatever happens.... But people are going to judge and have their own opinion on certain things that I don’t have control over nor does anybody else.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who became a head coach the same year that Newton was drafted in 2011, seemed puzzled as to why Newton is still polarizing to some.
“It’s funny we still fight that battled based on what? All he’s done when he came in his rookie year…he had a dynamic rookie year,” Rivera said. “He was NFL (Offensive) Rookie of the Year. He’s been in conversations every year for awards. This year he’s in the conversation for MVP. I still don’t get why he has to (be criticized). And maybe there are some people out there who are concerned with who he is, which I think is terrible. I really do.
“You think in this time, this day and age, it would be more about who he is as an athlete, as a person more than anything else. Hopefully we can get past those things.”