Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers spent the past season battling judgements of his persona. Then he fueled the fire by sulking away from his Super Bowl 50 post-game press conference after being upset by the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Visibly and understandably upset, and hidden by the hood of his sweatshirt, Newton gave reporters a grand total of 87 words post-game, most through gritted teeth.
Making eye contact mostly with the ground or other inanimate objects, viewers could have sworn they saw a teen-aged “I’m sick of getting lectured” type of eye-roll.
About three minutes into the conference after being asked about his disappointment, Newton shook his head and said:
“I’m done man.”
Then he left the stage.
Actions speak louder than words, and for that Newton is facing criticism yet again for his behavior on the podium.
Especially from me.
As a parent to a young son, Cam Newton will be his version of my generation’s Peyton Manning. Newton is the new face of the quarterback, playing for hopefully a long 18-season career like his opponent.
But I haven’t yet decided if I like him or not.
Don’t get me wrong, Newton is a stand-up guy. Passing out footballs to smiling and adoring kids on the field, signing autographs for cancer patients, it’s what he does. He makes sure that he’s known for being all about the kids.
Yet he forgot all that on the emotional roller coaster of his first Super Bowl defeat — and the worst game of his career.
Thousands of children emulate Newton’s every move, from the ripping of the jersey to reveal his Superman costume to “dabbing” every chance they get. Whether he likes it or not, his actions will be held accountable for the remainder of his career because of these children.
Many are defending him and justifying the behavior, but it’s really not okay.
Forty-nine quarterbacks have lost Super Bowls, including many Hall of Famers and legends. None put on a spectacle quite like Newton. Losing is a part of the game. That’s what we spend our lives as parents embedding in our children’s heads.
Newton rides the highest of highs, showing off his pearly whites whenever he’s credited with praise, or when he likes what he hears. But as soon as the tides turn, the tantrum begins. He avoids questions or makes smart-aleck remarks, or just simply walks away.
During the game, Newton fell to the floor, retreated to a corner, went astray from his teammates, and noticeably gave up.
Those qualities are not of a leader, but of a hypocrite.
And for that I am mad.
Newton is much better than the show he put on. A man of faith, a father, a phenomenal athlete, an inspiration to many. He’s better than other troubled young players in the NFL like Johnny Manziel.
Maybe it’s my fault for holding him to a higher standard than others, but as I watched the incident unfold, I became disappointed in the man that rallied together so many people to face adversity in their lives.
As Malcolm X once said:
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”
For his sake and the sake of the children who will grow up with Newton’s career, I hope he savors this slice of humble pie that Super Bowl 50 has served to him and comes back next season better than how he ended it.
Because whether we like it or not, Cam is here to stay.