Cam Newton was already a polarizing figure in the NFL, but now that he’s the best player in the league on the best team in the league, he’s impossible to ignore. Many love Newton and his new-age style of play, while others have somewhat of an agenda against the talented young man. Whether it’s due to his celebrations that some judge as too flashy, tossing a Seahawks flag on the ground after knocking Seattle out of the playoffs at home, or just his general style of play — which is different from traditional, statuesque quarterbacks — people have found reasons to dislike him.
This was tackled most famously (and certainly in the bluntest way possible) in a Deadspin story titled “Scared White People Are Running Out Of Reasons To Hate Cam Newton,” citing Skip Bayless of ESPN and a letter that a Titans fan wrote to him about his celebrations on the field being disrespectful. Anyone who may be unfamiliar with the argument against Newton as a fun-loving, smile-inducing, genuinely nice guy would do well to read it. But rather than focus on the hate thrown Newton’s way, we want to look at the top five reasons you can’t root against Newton in Super Bowl 50.
5. Cam Newton is fun
There’s a perception among many fans that the NFL is a league of blue-collar, hard-working guys who go home and drink their domestic beer and eat frozen pizza. It is a “these guys are just like us” fallacy. That’s not an accident, either. Teams and their PR wings push this idea to make extremely young millionaires more relatable to the construction workers, teachers, and everyday people paying for tickets. You don’t need to know them to know you’d get along with them, right?
But Newton, like many others, is just who he is. He enjoys himself and plays the game his own way. He dances and celebrates just like other players who don’t get nearly the criticism for it. Considering the fact that the Panthers went 15-1 and are heading to the Super Bowl, Newton has certainly earned it. First and foremost, root for Cam Newton because he’s fun.
4. Cam Newton is the bigger man
Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King has never been a big fan of Newton, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Maybe he’s one of many who don’t enjoy fun or celebrations? [Editor’s note: Peter King definitely hates fun.] Nevertheless, King was noticeably cold to Newton for several years, starting with jabs at the comments that Newton made in a phone interview in 2011. But three years after simply avoiding King, who continued to make occasional jabs at Newton on Twitter and in his column, Newton approached the writer to make amends and bury the hatchet, as explained by King himself:
He got right to the point. He said most of the people close to him wanted him to never speak to me again. Ignore me. I was one of the haters, so don’t deal with me; just deal with the media who were either fair — in their minds — or consistently supportive. “But I am my own person,” he said. “I think for myself. I make my own decisions. I decided I wanted to talk to you to see if we could work this out. I don’t want to walk the other way every time I see you. That’s not what a man does.”
It says a lot about Newton that, despite never really doing anything wrong to a journalist who continued to attack him, he was the one who eventually attempted to bury the hatchet, which, of course, prompted King to write the above-linked article titled “The Maturation of Cam Newton.” Newton seems like the mature one, and it’s a good reason to root for him.
3. Cam Newton cares about education
It’s hard to disagree with the notion that, given the option of completing college with a degree or dropping out and becoming a millionaire, most people would drop out and never look back. But despite beginning in the NFL and being set for life financially, Newton continued to work on finishing his degree over the course of several years. And then, last summer, Newton graduated from Auburn with a degree in Sociology, according to ESPN:
Newton’s degree is the culmination of a promise he made to his mother. Jackie Newton never had to remind her son of that promise after he left Auburn for the NFL as the first pick of the 2011 draft. Newton returned to Auburn after his second season in the league. There were times when he questioned whether he would be able to finish. He didn’t have a student — or anybody — assigned to tutor him as he did while a student-athlete.
Despite possibly never needing the degree that he completed, Newton held true to his promise to his mother, continuing to better himself beyond his work on the football field.
2. Cam Newton is just happy to be alive
In December 2014, Cam Newton was in a car accident that flipped his truck on its side and flattened his roof. Newton ended up walking away from the accident with a few fractures in his lower back, but nothing that he couldn’t recover from. An image taken from the scene was that of a miraculously alive Newton, lying on the ground in the road with a big, broad smile on his face. Here’s how Newton described it, according to USA Today:
I’m looking at this truck and I’m like, ‘Somebody is supposed to be dead.’ And one thing I remember is that I really couldn’t talk afterwards because I was in such shock. I got myself out of the truck and I couldn’t stop smiling. One plus one is always going to equal two, right? And I’m looking at this truck and looking at this accident. And I’m like, ‘Dude, one plus one doesn’t equal two.’
In his mind, Newton shouldn’t even be alive today. But he is, and he just can’t stop smiling about it.
1. Cam Newton is a good person
One of the things that people have learned about Newton over the last few years is that he has a real passion for kids. A lot of NFL players spend time with kids as a form of community service; it’s an opportunity to smile for cameras and possibly make some money for an appearance, making each player appear to be a nice guy who cares about the community. But Newton legitimately cares.
Whether it’s surprising a group of fourth- and fifth-graders who earned good grades with $200 to spend on presents for themselves and their families, volunteering at elementary schools, visiting kids in the hospital, producing a Nickelodeon TV show where he helps children realize their dreams, or simply handing the ball to a child in the stands after each touchdown he scores, there’s no doubt that Cam Newton cares deeply about the next generation.
If none of our other reasons grab your attention in a particularly meaningful way, you can certainly root for Cam Newton because he does so many wonderful things for children who desperately need it.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.