So, when FS1’s Jason Whitlock spoke about the media using the racial controversy surrounding Cam Newton for “clicks and ratings,” well he just might have been on to something there.
Enter The Huffington Post, who ran an article Wednesday titled: “The Panthers Are The Most Unapologetically Black Team In NFL History. And it's awesome.”
And how exactly does this “blackness,” for which the Panthers are so unapologetic, manifest itself? According to the article:
“The culture of football is such that a league made up of mostly black men is supposed to comply with certain standards created and enforced by mostly white men. Ideally, the players would act subdued in public, celebrate their achievements quietly and speak in a manner that avoids the spotlight.
The Carolina Panthers haven't done any of that this season. On the way to a 15-1 regular season record and the team's first Super Bowl appearance since 2004, the team has had fun and has been fun to watch.
They have talked loudly, danced loudly and celebrated loudly. But they've done something significant along the way, too: The Panthers have embraced, demonstrated and exuded aspects of their blackness in a way that few predominately black teams have done in the past.
They have been wonderfully, unapologetically, proudly black.”
A couple things here. First, the “culture of football” doesn’t dictate behavior based on race. It dictates behavior based on position. For example, on my weekday radio show I interviewed Mean Joe Greene on Friday and asked him what he thought of Cam Newton. Joe, who is black, obviously, said that he had a problem with Cam Newton at first, because Newton didn’t comport with his idea of how a quarterback should behave and carry himself. Again, this is a black former player saying this. Not some white, billionaire owner.
But if I had asked Joe what he thought of Dez Bryant? He probably wouldn’t have even mentioned his celebrating. Because his celebrating and carrying on is something that’s perfectly acceptable for a wide receiver.
Also, I thought we were supposed to be moving away from the thing where we attribute certain behavior to certain races. Now “talking, dancing, and celebrating loudly” is black specific behavior?
Someone should tell Rob Gronkowski and JJ Watt to be careful. Lest, they get accused of appropriating black culture.
“A lot of credit should be given to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera for empowering the players to be themselves. The only Latino coach in the league, Rivera knows what it means to stand out. But rather than trying to regulate these players, he has created an environment that makes players like Cam Newton and cornerback Josh Norman able to fully express themselves.
"Keep your personality," he has told his team.
Rivera has seen improvement in his team's performance since he gave them full freedom to be themselves. It wasn't always that way. Rivera admitted last year that at one point he tried to get Norman, in particular, to "fall in line too much."
"He lost that personality and the bravado as to who he is," he said.
When Rivera eventually let Norman be Norman, he began his ascent to becoming one of the top corners in the league. "They let me go," Norman said. "They let me be free, and all this started."
Nowadays, Norman's enthusiasm and charisma is regularly viewable, as when he was interviewed by ESPN's Ed Werder after the NFC Championship Game. If that occasionally annoys the opposing team, that's fine with Rivera.”
"There's a great saying: Respect your opponent, but believe in yourself," Rivera told ESPN. "If you start worrying too much about that side of things [respecting your opponent] and doing things completely the right way, you lose that little edge."
Richard Crepeau, a University of Central Florida professor who focuses on U.S. sports history, believes that Rivera has been able to pull more out of his players exactly because he is aware of the way NFL teams have historically tried to keep players in line.
"He knows what the restrictions have been and he knows how the athletic establishment seeks to mold people in a highly acceptable sort of way," Crepeau said. "And, of course, the NFL is among the most powerful in that respect. They don't call it the 'No Fun League' for nothing."
With their approval from their head coach and with Cam Newton taking the lead, the Panthers have decided that they were not going to allow themselves to be molded. They have proudly and publicly embraced who they are as black men and proudly demonstrated that blackness time and time again.
On Sunday, the Panthers have a chance to do something historic. If they win the Super Bowl, they will be only the third team ever to go 18-1 and go all the way. But no matter what the outcome, they have already made history, for no team has ever been as proudly black as the 2015 Carolina Panthers.”
Of course there’s another term, besides “proudly black,” to describe what the Panthers are doing: it’s called having fun. But more to the point, how is it that HuffPo gets to decide what is and what isn’t proud black behavior? Was Barry Sanders not proudly black because he was more likely to hand the ball to the official than spike it and dance?
We really need the Super Bowl to hurry up and get here.