The Carolina Panthers will face the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park on Sunday. Carolina is trying to rebound from its season-opening loss against the Seattle Seahawks. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton still believes he has a playoff caliber team, while Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel is searching for his first NFL win after recently earning a starting job.
Plenty of interesting story lines, right?
Unfortunately, some members of the Carolina media believe Newton’s race is also a significant theme heading into Sunday’s game.
Newton was asked about being an African-American quarterback in the NFL for over five minutes on Wednesday. Newton and Manuel are two of nine black or biracial quarterbacks who started in Week 1, and Carolina is facing minority quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks, as noted by Charlotte Observer reporter Jonathan Jones.
Newton graciously entertained a very outdated subject during his weekly press conference.
“I don’t think race hinders anybody at this position,” Newton said. “Opportunities are opportunities, whether you are African American, Chinese, Japanese, Caucasian. If you got skills to play this particular game of football, then you’re going to play, no matter what your race. For me, my opportunity presented itself, me going through Auburn, and it’s just that. I didn’t feel any type of pressure coming into this league saying that I have to represent all African-Americans, outside of saying all my fans are just African-Americans. When I play this game, I play it to the best of my ability, so I can inspire everyone, not just a particular set of people.”
Newton was later asked if it was a “big deal” to have nine minority starting quarterbacks, and he shot down that question.
“Absolutely not,” Newton said. “You don’t have a Bat Mitzvah just because you’re starting African-American quarterbacks in this league, even though I’m fans of everybody. I can’t just say I root for Michael Vick, RGII, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and those guys. I still feel as if I learn more, or just as much, from Michael Vick as I do from a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, or even a RGIII.”
Newton was also asked about coaches wanting to switch him to a different position when he was younger, and other questions that former Washington quarterback Doug Williams received in 1987. It is 2013, right?
The overwhelming majority of people who watch football do not notice race. Sure, we all see race, but who really thinks the subject of African-American quarterbacks is even relevant? Haven’t we moved past race being an issue in sports? It is not for most people, but apparently for some, sports is still a matter of black and white.
With so many interesting NFL story lines, Newton, unfortunately, was subjected to a ridiculous one.