Brandon Tierney and Tiki Barber discussed numerous topics on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney on Wednesday, including the polarizing behavior of Cam Newton. Yes, while some people dislike Newton for his showy displays of emotion, others revere him for it.
But Newton, as Bart Scott and others pointed out this week, is hardly the only emotional quarterback, or player, in the NFL. Tom Brady shows emotion. So does Aaron Rodgers. Still, no one writes angry letters to those players criticizing them for their behavior.
So, why do people do that with Newton? Is it rooted in race?
Tierney said no.
“I think the reason why Cam is really positioned as maybe a little selfish, a little greedy, a little too showy – and he stills gets that even though he’s matured into a great leader with a bunch of retreads at wideout – I think it’s an age thing,” Tierney said. “I think when people look at race as the primary reason to criticize him, I think that’s the low-hanging fruit. I don’t think they’re really thinking this through. I think it’s an image thing. I think you look at the quarterback position. Look at the four guys playing this weekend: Brady, Manning, Carson Palmer – all differently packed than Cam. I think Cam is just a reflection of the modern athlete, and I think society is okay with the modern athlete, guys like Steph Curry – we see it in the NBA, we see it in baseball. The problem is, though, there’s still an association. The CEO of the huddle, the quarterback, is supposed to comport himself a little differently. I think it’s more age and generational than race. I really do.”
Barber agrees and cited Russell Wilson as and example.
“Russell is actually younger than him, but Russell feels more like an old-school soul as a quarterback,” Barber said. “He’s into the hip-hop generation and all that type of stuff, but not to the extent that Cam is, where it shows itself on the field with his actions and the dances. Russell Wilson doesn’t do that, but they’re the same age. So I think it’s more cultural and what part of culture you buy into. Cam is fully into the young, millennial culture that is all about the latest dance craze and whatever’s cool. Russell Wilson is like, ‘All right, I know what my job is. I’m going to go celebrate with Ciara and visit hospitals and ball on the field. That’s all that’s going to matter.’ It’s more old school. I think Cam is a new-school type of young black athlete, whereas Russell Wilson is kind of an old-school young black athlete. So it’s different. Some people accept it, some people don’t.
“But you’re right,” Barber continued. “For a quarterback, you care about the image – because you become the image of the team, right? Even if it’s not the image of the team, you become the image of the team. We think of the Denver Broncos as Peyton Manning, even though a lot of those guys are vastly different than who Peyton Manning is personally. So that’s what I would point to. It’s a cultural thing. It’s a millennial thing. And most of us that are watching the game and opining about it, those that have radio shows or TV shows, we’re of an older generation. So we get it, but it’s still not us. . . . Some of it may be race, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s a generation thing.”
Which is unfortunate because Newton is easily one of the best and most popular players in the league.
“I don’t think anybody in the NFL does abetter job of connecting to his young fans than Cam,” Tierney said. “Nobody. It’s not fair the way he’s maligned because it’s an old narrative, and he’s matured.”