By now, you should be aware of what North Carolina Owner Jerry Richardson said on a recent episode of Charlie Rose when referring to the rookie situation with QB Cam Newton. When discussing the pre-drafting process of Newton on the show, Richardson went on to say that he talked to Newton about his appearance. He said he asked Newton if he had any tattoos or piercings. Then Newton went on to say no. Richardson then responded, “Good, we want to keep it that way.” He then went on to say to tell Newton “We want to keep no tattoos, no piercings and… I think you got a very nice haircut.”
Seriously, man? I’m not sure if this can be classified as racist, but it also can’t be classified as not racist. This does not make Richardson, the Carolina Panthers organization and similar organizations look good through a racial lens. There are more than enough metaphors that can be linked to leagues like the NFL and NBA and the ratio of white owners to black players. We already know that there is a racial bias, at least among fans, when it comes to the disliking white vs. black players. Black players are held to a much tougher standard than white players in the NFL. The most obvious example is the treatment by NFL fans of Michael Vick compared Ben Roethlisberger. Though there is a racial bias in the NFL, what trumps all discrimination, racism and double-standards is that big W. If you win and put Lombardi trophies in the franchise’s halls, you can do whatever you want. You can rape white women, electrocute dogs and/or sniff coke through your ears before every game.
Let’s be real though. Does Richardson have the right to tell Newton what he wants him to look like as the poster boy of the franchise? Yes. Does Newton have the right to tell Richardson off and do with his body what he wants? Yes. Let the pieces fall where they may after that. I’m almost certain that the Carolina franchise would not punish Newton if he chooses to get a tattoo, a piercing or grow his hair into locks. I am also saying that the franchise would continue to pay him. Newton has the upper hand on this. Plus, Michael Vick has a long hair, tattoos and piercings. He has a six-year $100 million contract. Jeremy Shockey (who is a Carolina Panther) has “distracting” tattoos—as LA Times reporter Bill Plaschke said—and long blonde hair. I still think Carolina sought Shockey because he’s a proven player.
As of now, the “suggestion” by Richardson seems harmless because he hasn’t had to respond to any stimulus (i.e., Newton choosing to alter his body). But these suggestions are really threats. What Richardson didn’t tell us is what the consequence would be if Newton “disobeyed.” We also don’t know if Newton asked this question or not, but I think Newton, his father and his agent should have.
My biggest question is why would Jerry Richardson bring this up to Cam Newton in the first place? I find it hard to believe that Richardson would be asking this of a white quarterback or a non-black player. Did Richardson ask this of Jimmy Clausen when he drafted him? And if you are going to ask this kind of controversial statement of a player, why would you say you did on national TV? I don’t get it.
This also exposes Richardson’s irrational logic of the situation. Cam Newton has been through some tough times and hasn’t shown any assuring signs that he’s going to become a thug or some kind of hoodlum. Does Richardson think that if Newton gets a tattoo that he will all of sudden become violent or do things he would have never done before getting the tattoo? This is probably not why Richardson went ahead and said these words to Newton though.
Richardson spoke these purposeful and non-coincidental words to Newton because Richardson is a business man whose ugly side has reared itself from the bowels of a kind of hell that once existed in the South. Richardson sees Newton as a commodity of the franchise—the most important. This is a ploy to appease fans and business partners of Richardson. The more Newton, a 22-year-old black male, fits the image criteria of Richardson, a 75-year-old white male, the more money Richardson can bring in.
Allegedly Richardson will pay and support Newton as long as he fits Richardson’s warped criteria for how a quarterback should look— and a black quarterback at that. Richardson’s logic goes as follows: Since I own the Panthers and pay the players on the team. In a sense, I own their minds and bodies. I decide what they can and cannot do with the body God gave them.
This is what is meant by selling your soul to the devil. If this is true, both Newton and Richardson have turned to the dark side. It’s disgusting. This is why the black community needs to do what we can to own property and valuable assets in the U.S. Being a multi-million dollar athlete simply won’t cut it anymore. There are far too many of us in this wealthy system of sports for there not be more of us in ownership and coaching positions. Either the system is designed for us to fail or we are failing ourselves. For someone to allow another human being to decide what he or she can and cannot do with their own body is unacceptable.