By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
It’s like a broken record.
When an African American dominates a field of endeavor in the U.S., invariably the public and media begin to over-scrutinize every detail of his or her existence. And even after accomplishing virtually unprecedented feats – there is this reluctance to fully embrace these overachievers.
Just ask Michael Jackson … or Michael Jordan…or Mike Tyson. Ask the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Cosby and LeBron James. Ask Tiger or Serena.
Highly successful Blacks become targets in the worst spirit of U.S. bigotry. I know. These celebrities cry all the way to the bank. Most of them are so distant from the mummers that they are unaffected. And they have more than enough in their coffers to escape the vitriol. But that makes it no less compelling a discussion.
Why don’t we hear nearly as many stories about the underside of white celebrities? Could it be that they are just living remarkably more pristine lives? Or is there NOT the same level of general antipathy combined with media zeal when it comes to exposing the worst in them.
Sure, there have been a few of their own dogged out. But never to the point of destruction. Charlie Sheen staged a successful tour in the worse throes of his drug-laden infamy. Robert Downy Jr. got out of rehab and prison and stepped into prime star roles in Hollywood. And don’t even mention all the ridiculous white rock stars whose bad behavior is ignored.
But let Serena get chosen Sports-person of the Year by Sports Illustrated and critics loudly protest, insisting that a horse (the one who won the Triple Crown) was more deserving. That’s right. A HORSE as Sports PERSON of the year over the most dominate female tennis player in the history of the game.
Well, there are some good old boys and more liberal sports fans alike who almost went into catalytic shock last weekend after the Carolina Panthers were led by quarterback Cam Newton to the conference champion and a trip to the 50th Anniversary Super Bowl.
Talk about a player the media and a large block of sports fans love to hate, they can barely stand the mention of Newton’s name.
And who is this person so viciously the bane of his critic’s existence?
Is Cam Newton some brooding malcontent who disses reporters or fans? No, he gives touchdown footballs to fans and has never met a microphone or camera he didn’t like. Does he have a reputation for sordid or unruly behavior off the field in some rambunctious private life? Living under a microscope – there hasn’t been a shred of evidence.
From most reports, Cameron Newton is a model citizen in the community in which he lives – generous to a fault. He’s an exemplary sportsman in terms of his respect for teammates and opponents. He’s a devout Christian – unashamed to pray before his games. And man does he have game. Cam Newton is to GAME what President Obama is to SWAG.
I hear what you’re saying right about now. So what’s not to like (much less hate)?
Most put it squarely on the fact that his celebrations on game time accomplishments and scoring just go too far. The dances, chest butts, the hand gestures, the teammate routines, the flying around the end zone like Superman. And it’s not only because he’s Black.
Sportswriter Jason Whitlock insists that it would be way off base to suggest people’s aggravation over Newton’s antics is precipitated by race. He says that even “old school” Black sports enthusiasts get agitated by over exuberate celebrations throughout the game.
Guess what? He’s right – to a point. Personally, I think that Newton – and too many young Black pro athletes – would benefit from a more level-headed approach to their success. While they are performing on the largest scale in their sport, they are setting examples for high school and college athletes who may need to learn more sportsmanship and civility.
But here’s the difference. I can be annoyed by all the dance steps and insidious routines, but look past it all to see a great quarterback who represents his profession well on and off the field. Other people who share disdain for the sideshow are more vociferous in their criticism and decidedly more hateful toward Newton. Those are the ones I’m concerned about.
No matter what anyone says, they are just looking for an excuse to camouflage bigotry.
Before Newton entered the league in 2011, he already had a bunch of haters. A scouting report assessing his potential in the magazine Pro Football Weekly described Newton as, “very disingenuous…(with a) fake smile…selfish…me-first make-up…always knows where the camera is…enormous ego…sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble…doesn’t command respect from teammates…lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness…is not punctual…looks for shortcuts and sets a bad example.”
Like the Marvin Sapp classic, Cam dedicates to his Carolina Panthers ownership in the wake of scathing critiques: “You saw the best in me…whenever everyone else saw the worst in me.” And to the haters of his touchdown celebrations Cam said don’t expect anything to change.
The 26-year-old 6’5, 245-pounder says, “If you don’t like the touch down dances – keep me out of the end zone.”
Easier said than done.
And finally, to the legions of Cam Newton haters: even if you persist in not liking him – you’ve got to at least respect his skills!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City.
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