Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Cam Newton’s Dad Really Blew It

Posted on September 12, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Before news broke that Cecil Newton had shopped the services of his son to college teams, they appeared to be the feel-good story of college football in 2010.

You know how sometimes you make a decision that seems to be a good short-term choice, but when looked in the bigger context probably wasn’t such a smart idea? Well, I can’t help thinking of that kind of notion when thinking about Cam Newton and the record-setting performance he had yesterday in his first game for the Carolina Panthers.

Even though the Panthers lost, given that Newton threw for more yards in his professional debut than any quarterback in NFL history, today should be a day when Newton is celebrated nationwide as a budding superstar and starts to cash in on his mile-wide smile, dynamic personality and athletic ability.

However, while I believe there is general appreciation for his performance and ability, I get the sense that many people across the country aren’t really interested in signing up for the “Cam Era” and likely will never embrace him in the way that his talent and potential might deserve.

You can choose to say that the reason for this is that he is a black quarterback in what is still predominately a white quarterback world, but I will respectfully disagree.

Instead, I believe that players such as Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Doug Williams, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and others have paved the way for someone like Cam Newton to be the face of a franchise and the face of the NFL.

In my opinion, the biggest reason that Cam Newton isn’t receiving the unbridled love of sports fans across the country can be traced to one of those short-term decisions. When Cam’s father, Cecil Newton, chose to hold discussions about how much it was worth to certain universities to secure the services of his son, Cecil unknowingly forever altered how his son is perceived by the sports world.

Whether or not you believe that money changed hands (to my knowledge no evidence of this has been proven) or whether you believe that Cam knew about the discussions (as of now the NCAA has ruled that he didn’t), you cannot help but look at Cam in a different light than if his father had respected the rules of amateur athletics and the NCAA and waited until after his son had completed his college career to cash in financially.

I have little doubt that if the world had never learned that Cecil Newton tried to trade the services of his son to Mississippi State for a six-figure cash deal, Cam Newton would have been the toast of the sports world even before his amazing NFL debut.

During the surprising and exciting run of the Auburn Tigers to the BCS Championship, Newton made every big play and often carried the Tigers on his back. What was even more enticing was that he seemed to be having a tremendous amount of fun out there. For a brief moment, he seemed to embody all that was good in sports about hard work, redemption and playing for the love of the game.

Cam Newton looked comfortable while setting NFL rookie records during his first game with the Panthers.

However, after word spread about Cecil’s attempt to cash in, suddenly instead of Cam’s ear-to-ear grin being an example of youthful exuberance, it was suddenly seen as being ingenuous and his comments and actions were often labeled as arrogance.

While Auburn fans delighted in winning a national title, the new favorite sport for many across the internet world seemed to be trying to find the devious evil meaning in every action of the Heisman winning quarterback.

Despite leading Auburn to a thrilling comeback over Alabama and then a late scoring drive that led to a field goal to win the national title against Oregon, Newton was labeled as being selfish and more focused on himself than on his team.

I think much of the reason for that reaction can be traced to a sports world where fans have been burnt way too often in recent decades. Whether it be steroids in baseball, constant scandals in college football, an increase in the number of athletes in the news for things other than their play on the field (Tiger Woods certainly comes to mind) or the growing power of the almighty dollar in the sports world, fans are no longer willing to withhold judgment and instead are quick to vilify anyone they believe is not being genuine.

For that reason, I believe that it will take many years, if ever, for Cam Newton to truly cash in on his talent and celebrity in a manner that would have been a no-brainer had his father never looked for the short-term payoff.

But instead, many companies that would have otherwise already had commercial deals with Newton are hesitant to invest money in someone with a tainted history and questions still lingering about whether we know the entire story.

In some ways, Cam Newton is caught between a rock and a hard place. The recent rebirth of Michael Vick as a marketable star illustrates that if you come clean, apologize for your actions and accept the consequences, sports fans are willing to forgive just about anything.

However, until there is irrefutable evidence either proving that Cam didn’t know anything about the actions of his father or proving that he was aware of the entire process, it will be very difficult for many in the general public to move on and therefore for Cam to receive the same kind of public forgiveness that we are seeing with Vick.

Really, the only thing Cam can do that might sway some people in his direction is to continue performing at a high level. If he is able to continue proving that he is worthy of the top pick in the draft and a future star, fans might be willing to look past his shady history.

However, it will take more from him than just good performances, for fans to start to embrace Cam Newton.

He said the right things after the game when he took responsibility as the quarterback for not making the plays down the stretch to lead a comeback, but the self-serving individual celebrations like the one that resulted in a 15-yard penalty following his first rushing touchdown as a professional must be stopped if people are going to begin to see him as a team-first leader and not as a me-first questionable character.

In the future, let’s hope that both Cam and Cecil Newton have learned that you can’t build Rome in a day and making wise decisions that look at the long-term will go much further than simply trying to cash in for a short-term gain. Both the Newton family and the NFL will be better served if that is a lesson they can remember.

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