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Shannon Williams

Shannon Williams

Super Bowl 50 was destined to be a big game. From the 50th anniversary to the match-up between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, to it possibly being Peyton Manning’s last game and even the fact that Cam Newton, a Black quarterback, was leading his team in football’s most coveted game.

We all knew how monumental the game would be. But what many could not have guessed was the amount of attention and criticism that would take place after the game.

Both Newton and halftime performer Beyonce were the subjects of heated debates and critiques that are still hot topics of discussion nearly a week after Super Bowl.

I will start with Newton.

At 26 years old, Newton is living the life most young boys dream about. He has played football all his life and has been very good at it. His hard work resulted in him being a top draft pick, and now he has the best, most desired position in football: quarterback. Newton’s extreme talent coupled with his team’s prowess led them to have the best record of the season with only two losses. And, once the season wrapped, Newton was crowned league MVP.

That is a lot to be proud of, but it is also a heavy load to carry — especially when the world is watching.

After Newton and the Panthers experienced the 24–10 loss to the Broncos, a reluctant Newton was defiant and obviously upset during post-game media interviews. After answering a few questions with curt responses, a fed-up Newton walked out on reporters.

He was upset about losing the game. I get that.

He was probably irritated by the provoking nature of some of the questions reporters asked him. I get that, too.

And Newton probably overheard some Denver players talking smack about him on the other side of the partition … another reason to be pissed, so I get that as well.

However, Newton should have handled the situation differently. He is MVP of the league, which means he is the best of the best. He should have risen above his emotions post-game. One of the fundamentals of athleticism is good sportsmanship; you have to be a good winner and a good loser. Does that mean Newton shouldn’t have been mad or frustrated? No, but there is a time and place for everything, and the post-interview was not the time to so blatantly display his feelings.

The fact of the matter is kids look up to athletes — especially MVPs. Having the best record in the league is a big deal, being MVP is a big deal and so is making it to the Super Bowl. This is all bigger than Cam Newton. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he is a role model — even if unintentionally so — because somewhere there is a young kid or student athlete studying Newton’s every action and reaction.

The fact that he is a Black quarterback adds to the heavy load he carries. For years there has been a perception that African-Americans could not be quarterbacks because they weren’t intelligent enough to strategically perform at such a level. The discriminatory insult has carried a lot of weight within the league, but people like Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson are breaking barriers and putting those stereotypes to rest. When you are one of a few, your attitude needs to change in some regards because you are an example others will follow.

Newton is a great player who has repeatedly said he hates to lose. That type of attitude is what makes champions, because you play to win, but it can also make really sore losers. Newton is both to me.

The great thing about Newton’s post-game tirade is it can be a lesson to all of us. We learn from our past mistakes and even the experiences of others, so when we know better, we do better. I am confident moving forward, Newton will do much better.

As I mentioned previously, Newton wasn’t the only one to get negative press after the Super Bowl. Beyonce received her fair share of criticism after her halftime performance that paid homage to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers, as her dancers donned black leather jackets, bobbed afros and berets. During the performance, the dancers also formed an X, presumably a nod to Malcolm X.

Social media was all abuzz following the performance with posts that called the 34-year-old singer racist and anti-American. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called Queen Bey’s performance “outrageous,” and said it was an “attack” on police officers. The performance was neither.

As I skimmed all the negative comments about Beyonce’s performance, I couldn’t help but reflect on the Black Panther Party and the group’s advocacy efforts.

Interestingly enough, many of the things the party wanted for all minorities, not just African-Americans, are the very things minorities are still fighting for five decades later: quality education, housing, employment and civil rights.

I commend Beyonce for using her platform to recognize the past while also reminding us of the present crisis we encounter daily. Beyonce’s efforts also instituted much-needed dialogue, which is essential in working toward combating some of the problems plagued by minority communities.


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