Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) does his touchdown celebration in front of Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson (54) during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. The Panthers won 27-10. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
It’s hard to fault Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for being excited. The pivotal piece in the Panthers’ attack has been exceptional so far this season, leading the team to a 9-0 record while making his case as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Newton hasn’t been without controversy, however, as his traditional touchdown celebration dances have started to ruffle the feathers of opposing defenses. A melee nearly broke out last week against the Titans as Newton’s touchdown celebration during the Panthers’ 27-10 win rubbed Tennessee linebacker Avery Williamson the wrong way and the two players had to be separated. The fourth-year signal caller has been celebrating all season for nine straight wins, and he’s angered several defenders along the way. Newton is having arguably the top season of his career and his team is only one of two undefeated teams left in the NFL so the controversial quarterback does have reason to dance. But, should he continue to do it? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Newton’s dancing for his offensive exploits is starting to get, well, offensive. Newton’s been breaking out of tackles and busting moves in the end zone, but now people are bringing up race and critics are writing letters complaining. When your celebrations begin to come off as pompous and unwanted then maybe it’s time to tone things down just a tad. Newton’s an extremely skilled player with remarkable talent and marketability. He doesn’t need touchdown celebrations to characterize his career when he has several other attributes that can do that for him. His dances are starting to become a distraction, and he’s too good a player to have touchdown dancing as a black eye on his career.
Green: Newton said it best when a reporter asked him about his tussle with Williamson when he smirked, “If you don’t want me to do it, then don’t let me in.” Newton’s touchdown celebration is just further symbolism of how dominant he’s been this season. If we’re talking about Newton dancing after a touchdown then we’re talking about him scoring, correct? The NFL has always had flashy but fan-favored players, and Newton just falls in line with the likes of Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens and others. We also have the league’s “golden boy,” Tom Brady. When he scores a rushing touchdown, he jumps up and screams before spiking the ball hard in the face of anyone around him. No one complains about that, just like no one complained about Packers QB Aaron Rodgers when he was doing his championship belt gesture after every touchdown run. He even earned an endorsement deal out of it with State Farm Insurance. Can anyone say, “discount double check?” If he’s on your team then you love him and that’s all that matters. Keep bogeying, Cam.
Riley: No, Cam. As the leader and face of the team, put the two-step away. Newton’s representing a whole lot more than himself, he’s representing his team and his city. He’s not just another guy on the team, he’s the quarterback and leader and those roles carry more weight than just the player’s. How Newton carries himself is how players like linebacker Thomas Davis or running back Jonathan Stewart is looked at – like it or not. Newton will never have the ability to just blend into the background like a linebacker or a receiver, his presence is too strong. He’s been playing at a high level and he doesn’t need something other than that to affect him or his teammates.
Green: If critics want to isolate his touchdown celebrations as a reason to try to vilify him or his teammates then even if his dancing stopped it’d be another issue. Newton’s been a controversial figure since his college days so I don’t think he’s so much worried about bad press over some dance moves. It’s understood that he has a significant role to play but he’s playing that role to the fullest while dominating on the field. You don’t hear about him getting arrested or doing anything detrimental. He’s stayed clear since his early days at the University of Florida and he deserves to celebrate on the field when he does well. He’s obviously entertaining and that’s a part of his game. If teams don’t want him to celebrate then they should do a better job defending him. Simple.