“I'm a firm believer if you don't like it, keep me out [of the end zone].” —Cam Newton
To some, the end zone is a sacred place. Two Sunday’s ago, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ran into that place for the fifth time this season—this time against the Tennessee Titans. To celebrate the six points and his team's probable victory, the leader of the undefeated Panthers danced. Cam's got some moves, there’s no doubt about that. There was pelvic thrusting. There was dabbing. There was yelling. It was a spectacle.
It was, also, all about eight seconds.
But apparently eight seconds was just enough time to upset the masses. Tennessee Titans fan Rosemary Plorin attended the game with her fourth-grade daughter. The Monday after, she sent The Charlotte Observer an open letter to Cam Newton where she condemned him for his touchdown dance...which I should reiterate was for a total of eight seconds.
I’m not sure what’s funnier—the fact that this woman felt the need to write a letter about poor sportsmanship based on a dance that was shorter than an Instagram video, the fact that she was happier directing her daughter's attention to scantily-clad (and horrifically underpaid) cheerleaders, or the fact that a lot of people actually agree with her. Or maybe it was the idea of a nine-year old little girl specifically asking her mommy if Cam Newton had kids at home. You know, because that’s what typical nine-year-old girls think about, right?
Yet, while the entire premise of this letter seems ridiculous, it has gone viral. And it’s still being talked about two weeks later.
Which brings us to now. The Carolina Panthers are still undefeated as are the New England Patriots. They both have excellent chances of remaining undefeated in the week to come (the Panthers play the Cowboys and the Patriots play the Broncos) and they will both continue to celebrate their touchdowns and wins. Cam Newton will continue to do his celebration, as will Tom Brady.
In fact, both quarterbacks will continue to be top contenders for NFL MVP. So why is it only one of them faces backlash for celebrating a win when the other often celebrates just as aggressively?
Tom Brady is known for the emotion he shows during his games. He becomes visibly upset when his team doesn’t execute and animated when his team does something right—which obviously is something that has happened a lot this season. He isn’t stepping out of line. Just enjoying the limelight.
Cam Newton is different though, right? He’s a quarterback for crying out loud! He’s a leader not only for his team, but also for the fans! And the children! His celebration against the Titans? Too arrogant, too obscene, too inappropriate. Too black.
When Tom Brady gets a touchdown he yells. He cheers. He curses. Sure he may not dab, but he dances too. And he’s hailed as a hero. Hell, he’s GQ Man of the Year. He rarely steps out of line, because he is right where he belongs—a white man as a team leader. No one says Brady's out of line when he clearly drops F-bombs on camera—he’s just showing passion! It's important to teach kids to be happy with their accomplishments!
Not Cam, though. He’s a black man celebrating his victory with a hip-hop dance move. It's wrong. It's uncomfortable. Who can even watch a game with their kids with all his gyrating and confusing arm motions? He needs to calm down. His little brother telling him to add dabbing to his touchdown dance? Bringing the culture he learned as a black kid in Atlanta to the NFL? Crossing the line.
Is the touchdown dance the problem or is it the fact that a black man—who's not scared to celebrate his blackness—is doing it?
We can dance around the central issue all we want, but at the end of the day people are getting mad not because of the victory dance, but because it was performed by the wrong person. Newton is a successful black man who didn't assimilate into the endzone celebrations of white stars (flailing awkwardness, spiking the football, etc.) and people have a problem with it. Even though Newton swears he isn't being arrogant and that he's just being himself? Not enough. He’s setting a bad example. He's wrong. So wrong that parents have to divert their children’s attention to the over-sexualized cheerleaders in the corner instead of the black quarterback at the top of his profession celebrating a touchdown.
Newton is currently one of only five non-white starting QBs in a league made of 32 teams. He’s also undefeated and unafraid of celebrating his success, and people are clearly unhappy with that. After all, this entire debacle is over a touchdown dance, which only happens when someone scores. So we have to really take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is the touchdown dance the problem or is it the fact that a black man—who's not scared to celebrate his blackness—is doing it?
Lord help us if Cam Newton ever does a batflip.