I read this book once that claimed that Muhammad Ali had actually joined the Nation of Islam as a 17 year-old.
Of course, right up until the night he became Heavyweight Champion of the World, you would have thought that he was just about as politically savvy and racially conscious as Steve Urkel, for all the jiving, clowning, bragging and prognosticating he did.
In hindsight, this was brilliant.
Who would have listened to or even given a platform to a 17 year-old amateur?
A champion, however, demanded an audience.
In a similar move, Lew Alcindor waited to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar till after he’d won his first Chip.
He can front all he wants, but young Lew had been the most affected when, along with a cadre of other Top Black Athletes gathered together to sway Muhammad Ali towards being “reasonable” in regards to allowing himself to be drafted into the military, he’d watched Ali stare them all down, defiant till the end, ready to face his fate, whatever that might be.
Now we got Cam Newton.
Cam hasn’t won shit.
Yet when faced with the question of why so many people seemed to dislike his grinning, dabbing ass, Cam answered, perhaps a tad inarticulately, but almost perfectly accurately that he was “an African-America quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”
Even more accurately would have been if he had simply said that he wasn’t the “type” of Black athlete that most Americans found tolerable.
America seems near to accepting the reality that it’s best athletes are going to continue to be non-white, and since this is to be the case, it would prefer to see those athletes – which many Americans also take a paternalistic perspective on – behave with a sort of “aw shucks” humility and modesty.
And now, things have just gotten worse.
Instead of simply lowering his head and getting back to work after the debacle that was his and the Carolina Panthers’ performance in Super Bowl 50, Cam is back and now saying not only that he doesn’t think that part of the dislike he engenders is because he’s Black, but that America has moved “beyond” race, leaving us to imagine that he’s graduated from inarticulate to flat out dumb.
But we know better than that.
Either somebody’s been in Cam’s ear or he’s been in his own head thinking that in order not to blow any potentially lucrative endorsement deals, this Trump-infested America is gonna require that he back off the racial shit and give the people “aw shucks”.
This notion, of course, flies in the face of the fact that Tom Brady, who like Cam and Michael Phelps, has at least one child out of wedlock, can openly endorse the outrageous Republican Candidate for President without a contrary word from anybody, or that even LeBron James didn’t lose an endorsement dollar by waiting till after winning his very first Chip to begin subtle political gestures like wearing bodies and “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts.
So yeah, Cam’s gonna ignore all the absurd heat he took over that baby out of wedlock or the crickets we hear when waiting for Brady or Phelps to be similarly attacked and try to, for money’s sake, become Race-Neutral Man.
I wish him the best of luck.
Too bad I also think that last year’s loss left him shell-shocked and potentially incapable of ever seeing another Super Bowl otherwise I’d just suggest he shut the fuck up entirely until he’s won the damn thing.