Racism appears in sports again

first_imgLast weekend, I was taking a Lyft back to campus when small talk with my driver led to reactions to the Super Bowl.I told him I was disappointed that the Carolina Panthers lost because I like Cam Newton. My driver, a middle-aged white man, was incredulous.“Why?” he asked. “I’ve never seen a more arrogant, whiny player in my life. The way he goofs around on the field shows he’s only in it for himself. And how he acted at the press conference? What a sore loser.”To which I responded by saying Newton was simply having fun with football, smiling and dabbing — his signature celebratory move — and letting his personality show. The driver conceded the point, but was still emphatic that he didn’t like Newton and was glad the Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos.I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and think that this man epitomized exactly what detractors have been whining about ever since Newton burst onto the scene: How dare this quarterback be black, talented and brash enough to do things his way? How dare he show his true emotions after losing the biggest game of his life?To be fair, Newton is the kind of player you would hate to have on the opposing team. Skill-wise, he’s extremely talented as a dual-threat quarterback, and at 26 years of age, is just reaching his prime. But on top of that, he rubs it in. He smiles like he doesn’t have a care in the world. When he scores a touchdown, he dances, dabs and dances some more.People have a problem with that. They see a black athlete not just succeeding but actually imposing his will on the game while playing a position historically dominated by white men, and they have no idea how to react. For instance, a mother who attended a Panthers game with her daughter wrote a letter to the Charlotte Observer chiding Newton for his arrogance and not being a proper role model.“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to,” Newton said in January.How’s this for comparison: Aaron Rodgers’ “Discount Double Check” celebration has earned him millions in endorsements from State Farm. Tom Brady’s constant cursing on the sidelines has led to actual FCC complaints. Carson Palmer was fined by the league after he taunted Seahawks’ fans with a pelvic thrust during a game last November.I don’t see how Newton’s “dab” is any different from Rodgers’ championship-belt maneuver, yet Rodgers is glorified while Newton is criticized. Despite Deflategate and being generally disliked by anyone outside New England, Tom Brady’s reputation is still higher than that of Newton’s. And why weren’t there any “letters to the editor” after Palmer’s inappropriate maneuver?This is the double standard that exists between famous black and white sports figures, a juxtaposition that has become even clearer with the recent allegations against Peyton Manning that range from having human growth hormone distributed to his wife in 2011 to the resurfacing of a 1996 incident in which Manning was accused of sexually harassing a trainer when he was at Tennessee.While the facts in both allegations remain blurry, illegal doping and sexual harassment are real-world incidents that merit greater discussion and criticism than some dance a black quarterback does after scoring a touchdown.Yet, in the days following the Super Bowl, all the criticism was directed at Newton for his supposed “poor conduct” in his postgame press conference, where he barely answered questions before saying, “I’m done, man,” and walking out.For this, Newton got pummeled. He was portrayed as a sore loser, chastised for gloating during victory but acting like a child after defeat. People wanted him to show some humility and own up to his pompous actions on the field. Instead, he spit on them, but unlike Brady or Bill Belichick – who often do the same thing to the media – it only added on to the notion that Newton was a stuck-up, self-centered jerk.Meanwhile, on the field after the Super Bowl, Manning went rogue with his sponsorship plugs, kissing Papa John and mentioning several times in interviews that he would celebrate by drinking a Budweiser. Active players are not allowed to sponsor alcohol brands, but hey, nothing to look at here. Manning is a squeaky-clean, picture-perfect white quarterback with a golden boy image, and thus deserves a free pass.I don’t know why race in sports is still an issue in this day and age, but clearly, the backlash to Newton’s rise shows the problem has not been solved. Newton is not a sore loser; he is a football star who has fun with the game and is not afraid to display his emotions but just happens to be black. Let’s set aside these ridiculous stereotypes and appreciate talented athletes – white or black, dab or no dab – for who they are.Eric He is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Fridays.last_img

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