In January of this year, Cam Newton made a bold statement shortly before playing in Super Bowl 50. During a press conference, Newton said, “I’ve said it since Day One, I’m an African American quarterback that might scare some people, because they haven’t seen anything they can compare me to.”
Newton appeared to understand how race and status can even play a major role in sports. But in a recent interview conducted by GQ, Newton presented an opinion that was completely opposite of his statement in January. When asked if racism is a factor in the criticism he receives, Newton reportedly told GQ, “It’s not racism. Everybody’s entitle [sic] to their own opinion. I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not. It’s not. Like, we’re beyond that. As a nation.”
Newton’s denial was shocking and wrong on every level. If Newton took a moment to watch or read the news this summer, he would have learned how bad race relations are in America. He would have seen how Alton Sterling was shot to death in police custody after his only crime was selling CDs. Newton would have watched the viral video of Philando Castille dying after being shot by a cop during a routine traffic stop. Newton would have also known that every police officer in the Freddie Gray case went home after being acquitted of his murder. And all of this has occurred within the last 60 days.
With a visit to the Super Bowl, Newton is now one of the most high-profile athletes in the nation. He has received numerous endorsement deals and more are likely to come his way. It’s hard to understand Newton’s thought process without actually speaking with him, but it appears as if the statement about race was made to appease his corporate sponsors. Some Black athletes and entertainers are willing to make White people feel comfortable in order to continue receiving a paycheck. They acquiesce to the idea that discussions about racism could cause tension and misunderstandings.
However, athletes and entertainers are in the perfect position to use their platforms to ignite the dialogue when it comes to racism in America. Athletes such as Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Swin Cash have all spoken out against the injustices that stem from racism. As the most visible quarterback in the NFL, Newton should also feel obligated to tell the truth about race and America.
Because the statement that Newton made to GQ is a lie that only he, and others who ignore the facts, could believe.