Cam Newton: When the Middle Ground Goes Wrong

Image via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Dalan Overstreet

Twitter is by far my favorite social media platform. It’s competition doesn’t exactly set a high bar. While most people see spontaneity and fun in Snapchat, I view it as invasive in nature. As an Illustrator, Instagram is my best professional social media tool (username @Dalan_Overstreet btw), but not much on entertainment. Facebook is okay…once you purge all of “those people from High School” (that means something different to everyone, but it means something to everyone).

Twitter, however, has proven versatile. It has been used as a source of consistent entertainment,  provided information counter and even, at times, more comprehensive than major media outlets and has even sparked social activism. All are especially true for members and subscribers to Black Twitter, such as myself.

The most fun moments are during major events ( games, awards shows, etc.) when everyone is locked in and live tweets. One of these occasions was yesterday, when the NFL regular season kicked off with a rematch of Superbowl 50. Result was pretty much the same, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers. There was a major difference online. Cam Newton’s reception from Black Twitter was a complete 180 from February.

This was undoubtedly a reaction to Cam Newton’s recent comments on Colin Kaepernick’s protest and the larger issue of Race. I don’t have to recap what Kap said and did, right? I personally read a dozen think pieces on it. If you are an objective person, you know the facts on police brutality in this country and how it disproportionately affects minorities, namely African-Americans. Ideally, these revelations should lead us to have constructive, nuanced discussions regarding Race.

Well, not for Cam. Cam decided to play the middle ground: Not condemn Kaepernick’s actions, but suggest it was his opinion and that this country is beyond Race. It is obvious that he was attempting to not offend anyone, nearly impossible for such a touchy issue.

He’s not the first athlete to play middle of the field recently. We all have seen the speech Lebron, Melo, Wade and CP3 gave during the ESPYs. In response to recent shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the attack on the Dallas Police Department and the “divisive rhetoric”, Michael Jordan donated $2 million dollars to improve police-community relations. Since Kap’s protest *was noted, he had been doing it all preseason*, dozens of athletes have spoken out, usually to the tune of ” I respect his position, but not his method”, as if that’s possible.

Still, Cam’s feels different, right? The Espy speech was a platitude, but it was a message of peace. Michael Jordan put some serious money where his mouth is, including an additional $5 million to The National Museum of African-American History.

Still, that’s not quite it. The major difference between Cam’s middle stance and theirs is acknowledgment. They stated there was an issue with Police Brutality and Criminal Justice in this country that was rooted in Race and it is on everyone to fix (not quite the same as Racism and stating institutions disadvantage minorities, that’s why it’s middle ground). Newton stood on the myopic idea of colorblindness. We are all the same Race despite statistics and history that strongly state a societal opposition to just that.

A caveat of note here is not just what Cam Newton said, but how he has been viewed since his career began. Newton has been a polarizing figure in the World of Sports. Yeah there are those who have strong distaste for the aforementioned athletes. However, and ironically, a much greater deal of the disdain for Cam has been rooted in Race. It is not the “He has a losing record in the Finals,” like Lebron or the “He has never been to the Finals,” like Melo. Most of the criticism of Cam has come in the form of being cocky and showboating, which was excused for Carson Palmer and Aaron Rodgers last season. Black Twitter, having noticed this blind spot and bias, came to Newton’s defense.

Cam obviously knew people either loved or hated him, so he played the middle. Maybe he could win over some people because his base had always shown support. He didn’t realize love is far more conditional than hate, especially when the hate is largely rooted in prejudice. Outside of Auburn and Carolina, his fans was largely comprised of younger African-Americans, unlike many other athletes who sought to stay as center as possible. He alienated those who stuck up for him and ingratiated those who will despise him as soon as he dances in the end zone. The middle ground is not for everyone, and Cam is now just another exhibit.

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