Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton issued a response Friday to an otherwise mundane Instagram post on Thursday that garnered some backlash and intimations that he was a “thug” or in a gang.
On Thursday, hours before the Panthers played the Steelers in the final exhibition of the preseason, Newton posted a photo to his Instagram account of himself with seven of his close friends on a trip they took in May to Mexico for Newton’s birthday.
Some of the friends are wearing bandanas on their faces and making hand gestures while Newton, in the front, has his hands in the form of a ‘W,’ which represents his alma mater Westlake High in suburban Atlanta.
The picture gained more than 17,500 likes and nearly 700 comments, some of which hinted at it being a gang picture.
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“Is this the “Panther Crips, or Bloods?” one person wrote.
“Congrats Cam, it took you 5 years but you finally proved you’re a (expletive),” another wrote.
On Friday, Newton took to Instagram in an apparent response to the negative comments. He posted a picture taken at his foundation’s annual charity gala this summer with several of the same friends dressed in suits rather than their more casual wear in Mexico.
Newton quoted Muhammad Ali that references being who he wants himself to be. The quarterback even used finger-pointed emojis of different skin colors to get his point across.
“2 pictures. SamepeopleINbothPICTURES. WHATdoYOUsee “OR” WHATdoYOUwantTOsee,” Newton wrote in the caption.
Newton’s “not going to be who you want me to be” narrative has been ongoing since at least training camp after he was involved in a scuffle with teammate Josh Norman during a practice.
Newton sat at Wofford College and told assembled media that he wouldn’t be put in a box and forced to act like a “prototypical franchise quarterback.” One person close to Newton has indicated that means both on and off the field.
“You’ve never seen a guy in a red (non-contact) jersey like me,” he said in August. “I’m not going to perform the way you want me to. I’m here for those guys in (the locker room).”
At the time of this story’s posting, Newton’s second Instagram post had nearly 9,000 likes and mostly positive comments.