All eyes were on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throughout the biggest game in his young career. After years of criticism for being too brash and arrogant, Newton led his team to the Super Bowl, only to be crushed by the Denver Broncos 24-10 on Sunday night.
Newton was clearly not content with his own lackluster performance or his team’s defeat. While his team’s offense shone throughout the season, Sunday night’s performance left plenty to be desired. His discontent came off with curt, vague answers to reporters during the postgame press conference, after which he abruptly walked away.
Broncos safety T.J. Ward even mocked Newton and the Panthers’ flashy, end zone dabbing ways, after the game, according to USA Today:
We don’t have to say nothing. We let them do all the talking. We let our pads talk. We talk with our helmets and our shoulder pads. They could do all the media talking, you know what I’m talking about? We’re not about that flashy stuff. We’re about that grind, putting in that work. Grind it. Work. That’s how you get the 'ship. They want to be famous. We want to be champions. They want to be rappers and backup dancers. We want to play football.
But at least Denver’s quarterback, Peyton Manning, says Newton eschewed his big persona on the field as the game ended.
"Cam couldn’t have been nicer to me," Manning said Monday on the Today show. "He was extremely humble. He congratulated me, wished me the best. I told him just congratulations on his outstanding season and what a great future he has. He’ll be back at that game, I promise you."
Manning, following what was rumored to have been his last game in the NFL, expressed some empathy for the opposing quarterback.
"I’ve been on that side of it," Manning added. "It is tough; it is not an easy pill to swallow."
For Newton, the bitter truth was clearly disappointing, as he came off as a sore loser at the postgame press conference. But Newton has pointed out before that his behavior — whether it's his end zone dances or his sour mood at this press conference — is viewed through a racial lens. With so few black quarterbacks on the professional level, it’s difficult for some not to see him that way. Ward's assertion that Newton and the rest of the team just want to be rappers and backup dancers carried a racial tinge, even with Ward being a person of color himself. If anything, the racial elements are why we’re talking about Newton's behavior at all.
"I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to," he famously said earlier this year.
Just a few decades ago, black people weren’t thought to be equipped to be quarterbacks, and were steered away from the position. Since then, black quarterbacks like Doug Williams, Warren Moon, and Russell Wilson paved the way for Newton to dab his way to victory (and, uh, defeat).
For now, though, it looks like Newton will have to just crack open a Bud with Manning and hope for another shot at a Super Bowl ring next season. Besides, we all know Beyoncé was the real winner of the Super Bowl anyway.