Hey, look, it’s Cam Newton saying thanks for a great season to his teammates and fans on Instagram. Oh, and the Panthers QB just happened to be posing for the photo in front of a picture of Muhammad Ali! Wearing a t-shirt that says, “I win my way” … five days after his Panthers lost the Super Bowl, and Newton jumped away from a fumble with four minutes left in a one-score game.
[Aside: So does Cam lose his way, too? As in, hey, I’m going to dance and dab when I win, and look like I just stepped out of a GQ photo shoot, all smiles in the postgame … but when I lose, I’m hiding behind a hoodie and pouting and scrambling away from the media better than I ran from Von Miller.]
Players are known for sending subtle messages (to fans and media) on Instagram. Colin Kaepernick, after he went to a Super Bowl, couldn’t stop posing with his shirt off. Russell Wilson used Instagram to show how he visited sick children in hospitals. Tom Brady can seemingly do no wrong on Instagram. Robert Griffin III can do no right.
I can’t wait for the armchair psychologists to try and decipher the message Newton was trying to send here. Muhammad Ali was polarizing and controversial. All anyone has said about Newton over the last two months was that he was polarizing.
Boxing (sports?) had never seen anyone as brash and outspoken as Ali when he rose to prominence in the 60s and 70s. I’ve argued Newton’s celebrating this season – after every 1st down, and certainly every touchdown – was something the NFL hadn’t seen before from a QB, which is why so many people were discussing it, constantly. Newton’s performance in the Super Bowl took it to another level.
To come out a day later and admit he was a bad loser was a stroke of genius; but his denials of why he didn’t jump on the fumble were laughable. Players around the league mocked him openly on social media. This is what happens when you put a target on your back and fail spectacularly in the biggest sporting event in the country.
This doesn’t mean Newton won’t be back. The defense, assuming Josh Norman stays in Charlotte, will be formidable. Newton had weak skill position players, but that will be fortified in the draft and Kelvin Benjamin returns. I do wonder: Remember how Kaepernick went to the Super Bowl and the accolades went to his head? Let’s see how Newton rebounds in 2016.
One final thought: The provocative Ali was nicknamed the greatest in an individual sport where he didn’t have to worry about his offensive lineman being pushed around or his running backs putting the ball on the ground.
But he also was an activist.
We haven’t seen Cam Newton dip his toe into that pool. He’ll have to pick his battles carefully – as Michael Jordan once famously said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”