Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, never reticent about offering his opinion, weighed in on criticism leveled at Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for dancing on the field after big plays.
As the Seahawks prepare to battle the Panthers on Sunday, Sherman was queried as to whether Newton’s celebrations bothered him. He offered his usual loquacious reply:
No. You get to the end zone, in an NFL game, you get the right to celebrate. You’ve worked hard. You’re a professional athlete. If you don’t get a chance to celebrate in the pros, when do you get a chance to celebrate? When do you get to show what you can do – to enjoy yourself? This is a game. Some people who have never played it, who have never expressed passion, sit behind desks all day and do that. Maybe you celebrate sometimes when you do something great, and nobody judges you, because nobody is watching. As you’re watching him, enjoy it, because he is enjoying it. He can enjoy his craft. If he wants to celebrate, that’s fine.
The Charlotte Observer had published two letters calling Newton a bad role model for children because of his on-field celebrations and his fathering a child out of wedlock. One Tennessee mom taking her nine-year-old daughter to her first NFL game wrote to Newton:
Because of where we sat, we had a close up view of your conduct in the fourth quarter. The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the ‘in your face’ taunting of both the Titans’ players and fans. We saw it all. I refuse to believe you don’t realize you are a role model. You are paid millions of dollars every week to play hard and be a leader.
The mom continued that when she and her daughter returned to their car after the game, her daughter said to her, “I guess he doesn’t have kids or a Mom at home watching the game.”
Critics of the letters accused them of racial bias.
Sherman pointed out that the NFL has made tremendous progress in addressing race relations, noting that Sunday’s game will feature two black quarterbacks: Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson. He added:
I think it’s awesome. (Newton) is in the running for MVP. It’s awesome how the league has changed in that way. There’s a lot of different kinds of quarterbacks out there – black, white, whatever – and I don’t think it has always been that. There’s always been kind of a knock on black quarterbacks, ‘They only can run, they only can do this, they can’t throw from the pocket, they can only do play-actions,’ and things like that. That rhetoric is changing a little bit.
Sherman’s perspective was supported by The Sporting News, which pointed out, “Before the 1978 draft, no black quarterback had been selected before the sixth round. Black quarterbacks weren’t really prevalent until the mid-to-late 80s. Since 1990, there have been at least five black quarterbacks in the NFL every season.”
Nine black quarterbacks started on opening weekend of 2013, but as a new study pointed out that black quarterbacks are benched more often benched than white quarterbacks. Steve McNair, the only black quarterback to win the MVP, shared the award with Peyton Manning in 2003.