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Friday, September 22, 2023


Football celebrations shouldn’t be controversial

The Carolina Panthers look to cap an already unprecedented season Sunday as they compete in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos.

The Panthers are led by quarterback Cam Newton whose jaw-dropping play has captivated fans all season long. He has found the end zone 45 times this season, all with a smile on his face. Largely due to his efforts, the Panthers look to extend their franchise best 15-win season on Super Bowl Sunday.

Newton is not your typical NFL player. The quarterback is known for is eccentric personality, on and off the field. On any given play he can be seen laughing, smiling or even dancing. He approaches the game as though it is just that: a game.

After each touchdown he scores — which is often — fans gear up for a show. Cam breaks out his signature “dab” celebration, which he has helped popularize all across social media. After the brief dance, kids fill the aisles near the end zone in hopes of being able to receive the game used ball from Newton. A smile rushes across the chosen child’s face as he or she takes the memento from their favorite player.

What seems like a harmless gesture has become the subject of odd criticism.

All season long, opposing fans, players and coaches have ridiculed his celebrations, labeling them excessive, unnecessary and thug-like. However, this assessment strikes me as unfair when you consider players like Aaron Rodgers whose “discount double check” celebration has even earned himself an endorsement deal with State Farm.

There are likely a few reasons for the unfair judgments, and according to Newton, race could be one of the issues at hand.

Quarterback is a position that until recent years has been largely occupied by white men.

“I’m an African-American quarterback,” said Newton. “That may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”

Race is definitely playing a nasty role in how Newton is criticized, but I can’t help but also notice a generational divide.

Newton is just 26 years old, and it’s clear he appeals more to a younger generation. Older generations are understandably more accustomed to players who took care of business on the field without a lot of flare. So when a player like Newton approaches the game with youthfulness, he is bound to ruffle some feathers.

I think it is important that we embrace the changing culture at the quarterback position in the NFL. People have become accustomed to expect a certain persona and behavior at this position and have grown far too comfortable with their expectations. Newton is doing his best to tear down the boxes we have come to put NFL quarterbacks in.

As the Super Bowl draws near, try to not focus on the negative noise that is likely to arise surrounding Newton. Instead let’s understand the positive impact this man is having on a game that is frequently tarnished by its player’s wrongdoing.

Opinion columnist Reagan Earnst is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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