Super Bowl 50 has come and gone, but it left behind stark reminders of double standards and divisions within America’s racial and cultural landscape.
In the days leading up to last Sunday’s NFL championship game that should have been titled Richie Cunningham (Peyton Manning) vs. rapper Future (Cam Newton), many seemingly rooted for the latter to fail, which he and his Carolina Panthers did to Manning’s Denver Broncos.
But afterwards, Newton’s obligatory post-game presser, complete with two-word answers, didn’t meet many reporters’ standard. “We lost,” responded the QB to one silly question that began, “I know you are disappointed…” Eventually, he had enough and walked off.
Since Newton didn’t appear gracious and contrite enough, the assembled mostly-White media used their culturally conditioned brushes and painted him a pouty man-child. Newton, for his part, admitted to being a sore loser a couple of days later while cleaning out his locker for the season. He added a quote from the late Vince Lombardi: “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
“I don’t have to conform to anybody’s wants…I am my own person,” reiterated a defiant Newton.
But it was the information bubble-blowers that acted like spoiled children, unable to stomach the fact that some Black athletes like Newton won’t conform to their warped sense of Americanism.
Newton isn’t a polished and ultra-polite Russell Wilson, the last Black quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl. He certainly isn’t a Manning, America’s favorite commercial pitchman who pushes pizza, insurance and beer, not necessarily in that order, but easily fits America’s clean-cut winner image. And he doesn’t need to be.
This is the same media that conveniently forgot Manning is currently being investigated for receiving a shipment of banned substances at his home. They also forgot when old ‘Richie’ didn’t shake Drew Brees’ hand after the Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. Not to mention the allegation that he was involved in a sexual misconduct incident while in college. All that gets Whitewashed.
Instead, Newton gets blasted and called an ingrate for not sitting like a stooge to answer one silly question after another after a devastating loss, only his second of the entire 2015-16 season. Such unrealistic expectation isn’t extended to someone named Donald Trump running for president but it is of Cam, who is not.
For the record, nothing meaningful usually comes out of post-game press conferences staged barely 15 minutes after the game from winners and losers alike — especially from the losing side, whose raw emotions run high.
But too many media members want athletes, especially the Black ones, to be subservient to their so-called needs to report. When actually what they want to report is to show them up, and use code words in their stories to promote such an unfair agenda.
Not to be ignored, is the controversy surrounding Beyoncé’s halftime performance which drew culturally conditioned catcalls. Some objected to her backup dancers dressed in an apparent nod to the Black Panthers as she performed “Formation.” The video for the song debuted the day before, with NPR calling the video “a visual anthem” to what’s going on right now with Black America. The Washington Post called the video “political, but Beyoncé is not a politician.”
Some criticized Beyoncé for using their precious Super Bowl to release her song to the halftime-watching world, the same folk that watch the world’s biggest advertising flea market equally as much as the game itself.
Check out The Daily Show’s Jessica Edwards, whose satirical but slyly serious commentary on Beyoncé took these critics to task.
Back to football, Newton showed that although he lost a game and got beat by an aggressive Denver defense, at no time did the quarterback bend over for reporters afterwards or bow to overblown public “outrage.”
“What makes your way right?” Newton asked of his critics, as he stood proud and tall. He vowed that his team would be back at the Super Bowl and concluded with: “If I offended somebody, that’s cool. I know who I am, and I’m not about to conform, nor bend for anybody’s expectations. Because your or anybody else’s expectations will never exceed mine.”
Look for more on the treatment of Black athletes and public figures, with insight from Missouri School of Journalism Professor Cynthia Frisby, in a future column.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.