SAN JOSÉ, United States: Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton on Tuesday Wednesday in Manila) downplayed the significance of being only the sixth black quarterback in history to start a Super Bowl, insisting he wanted to be judged on his achievements as an athlete and role model.
The 26-year-old favorite for this season’s National Football League MVP title ignited a firestorm of debate last week by a comment which implied his critics were unnerved by his race as much as his skill set.
“I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” said Newton, whose exuberant touchdown celebration displays have divided opinion this season.
However the Panthers star said his comments had been misconstrued, emphasizing he was reluctant to portray himself as a “black quarterback.”
“I don’t even want to touch on the topic of black quarterback, because I think this game is bigger than black, white or even green,” Newton told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think we limit ourselves when we just label ourselves just black, this, that and the third. I wanted to bring awareness because of that, but yet I don’t think I should be labeled just a black quarterback, because it’s bigger things in this sport that need to be accomplished.”
Not an issue
Pressed further about persistent stereotypes surrounding black quarterbacks, Newton grew visibly irritated, replying: “It’s not an issue. It’s an issue for you…I think we shattered that a long time ago.”
Only five other black quarterbacks have graced the Super Bowl — Doug Williams (Washington Redskins), Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks), Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers), Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles) and Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titans.
Newton said he prefers to see himself as an inspirational figure for people from all backgrounds.
“When you ask me a question about African-American or being black and mobile, it’s bigger than that, because when I go places and I talk to kids and I talk to parents and I talk to athletes all over, they look at my story and they see a person, African-American or not, that they can relate to,” Newton said.
“They see a guy who went a different route than just going to a Major Division I school and flourishing there.
“I just wanted to become relatable. It’s bigger than race. It’s more so opening up the door for guys that don’t want to be labeled, that have bigger views than say, ‘Well, I’m in this situation. I’m limited in this environment right now, but I also want to be an artist, I want to be a poet, but I don’t have the means to necessarily do the right things at that particular point.’
“I just want to give all of those people hope.”
A ‘kid having fun’
Newton has drawn criticism from opposing coaches and players over his carefully choreographed touchdown celebrations, with Tennessee Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey accusing him of breaching a “code of ethics” earlier this season with one hip-hop inspired routine.
However Newton’s supporters have pointed out that white players who celebrate just as extravagantly have not faced the same level of criticism.
Newton meanwhile said he was unsure why his dancing and endzone celebrations had been criticized.
“I don’t know, but I’ll guess you’ll have to get used to it because I don’t plan on changing,” he said.
Newton has drawn support from former Redskins star Williams, who led Washington to the Super Bowl in 1988. “Let’s be real,” Williams told USA Today.
“This kid has had an unbelievable year. He has his own personality. I don’t see anything arrogant about Cam Newton. And I think a lot of people would agree with that.
“The kid is having fun. Ain’t nothing wrong with having fun.”