Cam Newton is a polarizing figure, sparking comments more akin to a political blog than a sports one. I read this article today, and it got me thinking. Is the proverbial "bar" higher for the black college quarterback than the white college quarterback. This is an old argument, born of a presumably distant and false notion that a black man lacked the mental capacity to quarterback a football team, whether it be Pee-Wee, College or Pro. I say presumably distant because, in this supposedly enlightened age, do we see any differently?
More after the fold...
The debate over whether the Carolina Panthers should take Cam Newton with the # 1 draft pick has been met with a variety of opinions, stemming from the nuanced to the ignorant. The nuanced being the studious type, arguing based on arm strength, accuracy or tactical skill. The ignorant being numerous comparisons to the notorious Jamarcus Russell or Michael Vick, both of whom share more in terms of skin color with Cam than quarterbacking traits. And then there are the ever-present complaints that Cam is somehow mentally lacking. And while some mean this in earnest, basing it on Cam's lack of experience or Wonderlic score, I do wonder how many of those who keep repeating the point do so out of the same, tired stereotype that has in the past prevented young, African-American men from having the opportunity to quarterback an NFL team, that a black man lacks the mental faculty to quarterback an NFL team.
Character is another argument that comes up frequently. Does Cam have integrity? Is Cam a prima-donna? I can't see into the man's heart, so of course I don't know. But I do know that it would be wrong for me to judge for that very same reason. And we have been quick to forgive even the worst transgressions of others, so why shouldn't Cam be given the same opportunity. The thorough background investigation performed by Panther's management is probably the best way an outsider could see what someone is truly like, so I'll trust their judgement. There's a reason why they have ran a successful football team and I haven't. They know what they're doing.
The NFL's racial make-up runs roughly 65% African-American and 35% caucasion. Since 1970, 18 quarterbacks have been selected as the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Two of those were African-American. 11%. So if the Carolina Panthers see fit to select Cam Newton as the #1 pick in the NFL draft, it will mean one of two things. 1) The bar for a black quarterback is higher, but Cam is so talented that he can overcome or, or 2) The bar is no more, and there is finally an even playing field. Either way, I'll be proud to stand by Cam and cheer him on as a Panther.