Dab This: Don’t Criticize Cam Newton’s Celebrating

(WARNING: article may contain subjects inappropriate for those under the age of nine years old.)

You’re probably reading this and wondering what in the world I’m talking about.  Nine years old?  Why is that?  I’ll explain it near the end of the article.

This controversy started when star quarterback Cam Newton’s Panthers traveled to Nashville to play the Titans.  Newton’s Carolina team was 8-0 entering the game; no small feat, especially considering the parity that currently exists in the NFL.  Newton is their leader, but he’s also a character the likes of which has rarely been seen in the league recently.  He’s not afraid to show his personality, and sometimes, that can get him into trouble with the more rigid of football fans.

Sunday would be possibly the first time he has been heavily criticized for his in-game antics; he caught plenty of heat for things that happened while he was in college, but that was mainly directed at him for off-the-field transgressions, which were nothing compared to what the NFL deals within regards to some of their stars now.

In any event, Newton would lead the Panthers to a late 10-point lead in Tennessee.  He played a masterful game, completing 81% of his passes, throwing for over 200 yards, throwing and rushing for a touchdown each in the process.  However, the rushing touchdown would be the one that has us talking this week.

After punching it in on the ground from two yards out, Newton proceeded to partake in a dance known as the “dab”, which is credited to the Atlanta hip-hop duo Migos.  Anyway, it wasn’t the dance itself that is the problem, it’s the nature in which it was done. See for yourself how Newton sticks it to Tennessee here:

As you can see from the video, the dance was pretty darn in-your-face.  Here’s the thing, though: I really didn’t have much of a problem with it.  There are any number of reasons why, but I’ll outline a few of them here.

1. He’s 9-0- And All the People Criticizing Him Aren’t

This is the simplest reason why it’s easy to defend Cam here. Whether you like him, dislike him, or compare him to Colin Kaepernick hate him, there are two quarterbacks in the NFL that are undefeated. They are:

  1. Tom Brady (the greatest quarterback ever)
  2. Cam Newton

That’s it.  And no, you won’t see Tom Brady hitting any dabs on Sunday, but that’s okay.  He and Newton are polar opposites as quarterbacks and leaders, but the marked differences between them is what makes their success so interesting.  Newton’s team is having the same amount of success as Brady’s, whether you like that or not. If I was 9-0 in fantasy football, I’d probably be dabbing right now, too. The fact that Newton’s Panthers are 9-0 in real life is more than cause enough to celebrate.

2. Haters Gon’ Hate- But Detractors Need to Direct Their Anger Elsewhere

Speaking of the Panthers, the man in the picture used to play for them.  His name is Greg Hardy.  He plays for the Cowboys, he is a lot to handle at defensive end, and his presence has improved the team’s defense this season.  He also happens to be a proven domestic abuser, and he’ll also be suiting up for Dallas on Sunday with not nearly as much fanfare as Newton (although that’s debatable; the public protest of Hardy has existed, although very intermittently).

If you want to get mad at Hardy, I’m more than okay with that.  If you want to get angry at the fact that he’s been playing since week 5, you go do you.  But to get mad at Newton more so than you are at Hardy….. come on.  You’re just being ridiculous at this point.

You could also get mad at the NFL because the quality of their games is completely terrible; that would make sense as well.  But, apparently a dance is worse than both of those things, so I’m glad that we have at least established this for the rest of the season.

NOTE: Before I get into my next point, let me just say that it will be very divisive.  I absolutely loathe using this reason for basically anything inside the sports world, and most of the time, I think people use it because it’s an easy cop out.  I didn’t want to do this, and it doesn’t apply most of the time anymore (thankfully), but as I thought about the reasons why Newton has gotten so much backlash, this was the first thing that popped into my mind.

After another quarterback did something that should have yielded him double the controversy on the exact same day to maybe half the criticism, I knew why.  So, with some trepidation, this is the last reason why people are wrongly criticizing Newton, but shouldn’t….

The Race Card

I still hate this excuse, but this is one of those times when it applies. Warren Moon has repeatedly stated that criticism of Newton is driven by Newton’s being an African-American, and at least in this case, it’s true.  I’ll explain why it is briefly but hopefully succinctly.

Later that day, in fact, that night, the Cardinals faced the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football.  The Cardinals got what was probably the biggest win of their season, and with it, the NFC West is essentially theirs to lose.  After the team had clinched the win, quarterback Carson Palmer got so “excited” that he commanded the Seahawks fans to, well…. judge for yourself.  (WARNING: video may be disturbing to some, and I’m actually serious this time.)

So, let’s think: the Palmer gesture was just seeing people and getting excited, but the dab was an in-your-face, outlandish, and inappropriate behavior, showing once and for all that the player in the act of dabbing does not know how to win with grace?  Huh, that’s funny.  I wonder why that is.

It’s something that Greg Howard of Deadspin wrote about yesterday. I can’t quote the full article because it’s so expletive-laden, but it’s absolutely brilliant.  This is the important part:

If the Panthers weren’t undefeated, and if Newton weren’t a midseason MVP candidate, some would take some dabbing as a window into his soul and his future, proof that he’s not and will never be a True Franchise Quarterback. But they can’t anymore. He’s showing with every win that pearl-clutching talk about his maturity or whether he’s appropriately deferential after touchdowns says more about those doing the complaining. Newton’s proving that the things about him that make people so angry are entirely unconnected to his on-field success, and that to “play the right way” is to win and put yourself and your team in a position to dance every week.

Amen.  I’ll leave it at that.

Our business is just about done here, but to this point, I’ve left one promise unattended to.  Yes, I said I’d get into the whole thing about nine-year olds, and the time has come to talk about what relevance they have to this story.

This isn’t about all third and fourth graders, but it’s about one and her mother.  I’m not even going to give my opinion on the letter other than to say this: it’s absurd.  I’ll leave it all right here and you can judge its craziness for yourself:

Dear Mr. Newton,

Congratulations on your win in Nashville today. Our team played well, but yours played better. Kudos to the Panthers organization.

That game happened to be my nine year old daughter’s first live NFL experience. She was surprised to see so many Panthers’ fans sitting in our section of the stadium; that doesn’t happen much at fourth grade football games. And she was excited we were near the end zone, so we would be close to the “action,” particularly in the second half.

Because of where we sat, we had a close up view of your conduct in the fourth quarter. The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the ‘in your face’ taunting of both the Titans’ players and fans. We saw it all.

I refuse to believe you don’t realize you are a role model. You are paid millions of dollars every week to play hard and be a leader. In the off season you’re expected to make appearances, support charities, and inspire young kids to pursue your sport and all sports. With everything the NFL has gone through in recent years, I’m confident they have advised that you are, by virtue of your position and career choice, a role model.

And because you are a role model, your behavior brought out like behavior in the stands. Some of the Panthers fans in our section began taunting the hometown fans. Many Titans fans booed you, a few offering instructive, but not necessarily family friendly, suggestions as to how you might change your behavior.

My daughter sensed the change immediately – and started asking questions. Won’t he get in trouble for doing that? Is he trying to make people mad? Do you think he knows he looks like a spoiled brat?

I didn’t have great answers for her, and honestly, in an effort to minimize your negative impact and what was otherwise a really fun day, I redirected her attention to the cheerleaders and mascot.

I could tell she was still thinking about it as we boarded a shuttle back to our car. “I guess he doesn’t have kids or a Mom at home watching the game,” she added.

I don’t know about your family life Mr. Newton, but I think I’m safe in saying thousands of kids watch you every week. You have amazing talent and an incredible platform to be a role model for them. Unfortunately, what you modeled for them today was egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship.

Is that what your coaches and mentors modeled for you, Mr. Newton?

Newton is absolutely aware of his standing as a role model, but that term means different things to different people.  His mom, Jackie, likely was watching the game whilst he dabbed.

And no, that probably isn’t what Cam Newton’s coaches and mentors modeled him for.   But it’s what has the Panthers at 9-0, and it’s what has made Newton successful in his young NFL career.

Which is why this debate is coated with a dab of stupidity.


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