This is an op-ed I wrote yesterday on Cam Newton, who the Patriots have just released. No one would publish it.
Is it now racist to suggest that someone is acting unprofessionally?
It’s decision time in the NFL, when rosters are culled, and up-and-coming quarterbacks supplant established veterans. Apparently, it’s also time to talk about race, because it’s always time to talk about race in 2021’s America.
Consider, for instance, what is playing out in New England, in regards to former league MVP Cam Newton, and one Scott Zolak, the Patriots’ radio color analyst, who Twitter has taken to branding a racist, on account of a comment he made about Newton and rap music.
It’s obvious that ex-Pats QB Zolak wants first round draft pick Mac Jones installed as the team’s starter. If you watched Newton play last year, that’s not a hard camp to find yourself in.
Newton’s 2020 campaign—or so went the narrative from his boosters—was derailed when he came down with COVID, and was never the same after. Last week, Newton missed five days of prep on account of botching the COVID protocol that the Players Association negotiated with the league. He was out of state for some medical reason—despite living in the vicinity of Boston, with the top medical care in the country.
Kind of a big time for the man, with his career on the line. Newton returned to practice, and Zolak, observing, suggested maybe it was time to turn down the rap music because Newton was dancing to it between reps, which to me is a kind of “read the room” deal. You just screwed up, you were bad last year, look focused, be focused. Which in this age means: He’s a racist!
Is it now racist to expect someone to behave professionally? It doesn’t matter that it was rap music, but that’s what everyone fixates on. It could have been Giant Steps period John Coltrane, or Elgar’s Enigma Variations that Cam was busting it to. That’s not the point.
The quarterback of a team is near management level. Last year, this quarterback couldn’t read a defense, threw to one side of the field, drove balls into the ground.
That’s the leader who wields more potential influence in a team’s success and character than anyone else. Yes, of course there are examples of whatever future HOF’er doing whatever at practice. But it’s like your mom used to say: “Just because Billy did it doesn’t mean you have to.”
Personally, I think Newton is a clown. Not a bad guy. A forever overrated guy. A guy who might be on the bench in three weeks or out of the league soon.
I believe you exude an attitude of hard work. You look locked in, because you are locked in. You dance later. You focus on your next throw between throws. You watch what this kid you’re competing with is doing.
It’s a mindset. Is it the best one? Well, we can debate that. You might believe in starting work at four in the AM, leaving the giggles to when it’s done, or perhaps you intersperse some yucks along the way and find that’s best for you and your work team.
But not holding that latter belief, and thinking that Sam in sales would be better served making fewer “that’s what she said” jokes doesn’t warrant this tired, “He did a racism!” nonsense.
There’s still purpose, there’s still focus, there’s still dialed-in. Not everything has to be feelz and good times. And when we think someone is letting down the side, we’re allowed to voice why we think that. It doesn’t make you anything except perhaps wrong, or bang on right.