There were a lot of emotions that ran through my mind when I heard Warren Moon this week refer to criticisms of Cam Newton as race-related. I will take you through my progression of emotions as I try to understand where Warren Moon was coming from and whether there was any validity to what he was saying in today’s NFL’s atmosphere.
Anger: I openly criticized Cam Newton’s prospects in the NFL; does that mean I’m a racist? My initial reaction was to take his comments as an insult toward my integrity, not only as an NFL Draft writer, but as a human being. I know his comments were not directed at me specifically, but his comments were directed at anyone in the media who said a negative thing about Cam Newton. As a follower of the NFL and the NFL Draft, I never once noticed the color of his skin, or any athlete’s skin for that matter, yet Warren Moon lumps the media into a category of racists by stating, “A lot of the criticism he’s receiving is unfortunate and racially based,” Moon told CBS Sports. “I thought we were all past this. I don’t see other quarterbacks in the draft being criticized by the media or fans about their smile or called a phony.”
Let’s dig into Moon’s quote about racism & Newton’s smile. The comments about Newton’s smile reference Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki annual draft preview when he stated, “Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and always will struggle to win a locker room”. (http://tinyurl.com/3oomvvk)
Funny thing happened on the way to Carolina. Here is part of Nolan Nawrocki’s opinion on Carolina’s other QB Jimmy Clausen, prior to the 2010 Draft: “Has a sense of entitlement, having attended private schools, worked with private QB coaches and being sheltered by his family, who bought a house on campus so his brothers had a place to stay for every game. Arrogant- can come off as having all the answers and struggle to win a locker room. Still immature. Comes across as overly staged, scripted and disingenuous in interviews and does not have the type of presence desired in the face of a franchise.” (http://tinyurl.com/3rhazc4)
Now let us look at “a lot of criticism” of Cam Newton that Moon was referring to and determine if there was a racial undertone. The two main criticisms of Newton were his character and whether the offense he ran at Auburn would hinder his ability to run a pro-style offense in the NFL.
His character issues start when Newton transferred from the University of Florida in 2008 to Blinn College. In November 2008, Newton was arrested for the theft of a laptop from a Florida student’s room. This was not the only issue Newton had at Florida. Per Thayer Evans of FoxSports.com, a source told him that Newton faced possible expulsion from Florida because it is alleged that Newton put his name on another student’s paper. Not to mention, during the year he was at Auburn, he was embroiled in a pay-for-play scandal which is still being investigated by the NCAA. (http://tinyurl.com/22wcb9h) Where is the racial undertone when questioning Newton’s character when he was arrested for theft, accused of cheating, and has the cloud of a pay-for-play scandal hanging over him?
Cam Newton ran a spread-option offense that is not seen in the NFL. He did not perform pre-snap reads that are required in a pro-style offense. The offense was designed to have 1-2 reads for half the field, and if they were covered, use Newton’s incredible athletic ability to take off and run. This wasn’t Newton’s fault, but because he didn’t have to do it, but people questioned if he could. http://tinyurl.com/42uo97f) NFL offenses are not run that way, and because he played only one year in this particular offense, there were questions if he could make the adjustment. Let’s use this analogy to fully understand the questioning of Newton’s ability to run an NFL offense. An accounting firm is hiring a tax accountant and they have one resume that stands out. The candidate has all the qualities the firm is looking for, except for one problem, the candidate has never done tax accounting work. He has experience in general accounting, but that’s different that tax accounting. It’s a legitimate question to ask whether the candidate can do this kind of work. Questioning whether someone can do a specific type of work based on their lack of experience is not racist.
So I ask Warren Moon, how is what Nolan Nawrocki said about Cam Newton, a black quarterback, any different than what he said about Jimmy Clausen, a white quarterback? Where is the racism when Newton’s character and ability to transition to a NFL offense were his main criticisms?
Confusion: I am confused because I don’t understand what basis Warren Moon has for his accusations of racism. Why would anyone in the 2011 version of the NFL be racist? There is too much money to be made that anyone who lets racism be a deciding factor in player personnel decisions will be left behind. The NFL revenue last year was $9.3 BILLION dollars. (http://tinyurl.com/3ehjh4h) Of the 32 starting quarterbacks that began the 2011 season, 6 were African-American (19%). To put that into perspective, 12.6% of the population in the United States was African-American at the end of 2010. (http://tinyurl.com/ejt26) In 2011, diversity among NFL executives is growing. Per the Associated Press via ESPN.com, “Diverse employees at or above the vice president level increased by 30 percent (from 20 in 2010 to 26 in 2011).” (http://tinyurl.com/6j866ex) Of the 32 NFL head coaches starting 2011, 6 are African-American.
I ask Warren Moon again, what racism in the NFL is he referring to?
Sadness: When Warren Moon entered the 1978 NFL Draft, there were a lot of racially (and racist) related questions asked about African-American quarterbacks. Was he smart enough? Was he too athletic for the quarterback position which would cause him to switch to another position? I can only imagine the anger, hurt, and frustration he went through because the questions of whether he could play quarterback in the NFL laid solely on the color of his skin. I can’t fathom the scars that these ignorant beliefs have left upon him. For the racism that Moon dealt with, it makes me sad that America and the NFL was that way at one time.
As we’ve gone through my emotions towards Warren Moon’s accusations of racism towards Cam Newton, it’s obvious that a majority of my feelings were anger. I don’t like it when anyone uses racial allegations to explain an occurrence without facts to back up those allegations. As sadness started to trickle in, although I will never understand what Warren Moon went through, I can see where he is coming from. When he saw a young African-American quarterback being criticized for things he saw as unfair, old scars were open and bled through in his words. I am not naïve enough to think that racism no longer exists, but in today’s NFL, the existence of racism is irrelevant. Rest easy Warren Moon, this isn’t 1978, it’s 2011. The NFL and America have come a long way.