CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suggested for the first time Wednesday that race may play a factor in why he’s become a lightning rod for public criticism heading toward his appearance in the Super Bowl.
“I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” said Newton.
Newton has his share of detractors who either don’t like how he plays, his celebrations or his abundance of self-confidence.
“People are going to judge, and have opinions on things I don’t have control over,” Newton said.
Newton has passed for 35 touchdowns and run for 10 this season. He has helped lead the Panthers to their first Super Bowl since 2003. Carolina plays the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California.
Newton said his character is often misunderstood by outsiders.
“I said that prior to me being in this (Super Bowl) situation,” Newton said.
“They talk about maturity. They talk about skill set. . . . The only thing that has changed (about me) is that we’re winning now.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t believe Newton wants race to be a factor in how he is assessed. Most quarterbacks in the NFL are white.
“He has always strived to have that separation,” Rivera said. “I don’t think he wants to be known as an African-American quarterback; he wants to be known as a quarterback. That is what drives him, to be able to transcend those boundaries, which is great.”