Carolina Panthers

Panthers QB Cam Newton stays on message at gala: Be unique, but remember your mission

Cam Newton's Kids Rock Gala

The Carolina Panthers quarterback raises money to help kids.
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The Carolina Panthers quarterback raises money to help kids.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he gets the same question every year at many of his various charity events, and Saturday evening’s third annual “Kids Rock!” gala at the Charlotte Convention Center was no exception.

Why does he throw these events? What does he get out of it?

His answer – through roller-coaster seasons and offseason scrutiny – has remained the same.

“All I wanted to do is be able to impact my environment, no matter where I was,” he said. “Predominantly, I’m in Atlanta or Charlotte. To have some type of following there and doing right (by people), using my influence in a positive way and realizing that our youth is the future. ... To have as many outlets as I can through my foundation to give them as many opportunities to be successful – to do whatever they want to do, or achieve what they aspire to do.”

In a move that has become all-too-fitting for the often flamboyantly, stylishly dressed quarterback, the event’s theme was “Be you. Uniquely you.”

“Well, it means just living everyday life the way you want to live it,” Newton said. “I think I’m inspired by the representation of being unique. And I just wanted everybody to show up tonight and try to express themselves in any way possible.”

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton poses for a photo with retired Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, the emcee for his foundation’s “Kids Rock!“ gala at the Charlotte Convention Center on Saturday night. Alex Kormann akormann@charlotteobserver.com

Newton said guests showed up “on-theme,” perhaps none more so than him, in a half-top hat and large round glasses to accent a silk, fitted jacket and what appeared to be boa-print pants and vest.

But, he joked, his father, Cecil, was the “second-best dressed” guest of the night.

“It’s a great representation of ‘swag’ in that building tonight,” Newton said.

The event included an estimated 400 guests including Panthers teammates and sports celebrities such as Michael Strahan (the host of the evening), Warren Moon and Deshaun Watson. It also featured an auction to raise money for the many charity events Newton throws each year via the Cam Newton Foundation.

Several of the guests in attendance also were present at Newton’s “Kickin’ it with Cam” charity kickball event on Friday and stayed to support Newton through the weekend.

“Man, it’s big,” he said. “To see new faces and see old faces, guys who have been coming for years and years, it just shows the loyalty and appreciation that I can not, No. 1, take for granted, and I cannot thank those guys enough.”

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue

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