CHARLOTTE, NC, December 8, 2016 – There’s been a mini-controversy in the locker room, and by extension the media, of the Carolina Panthers football team. Last season at this time, the halls were decked with holly and love sprang eternal as the undefeated NFC South defending champions were giving away footballs and “dabbing” through the holidays.
This year the Panthers were supposed to be even better but they have won just four times and there’s dissension in the ranks.
While the incident that ignited the controversy appears minor on the surface, it goes far deeper and, in its own way, is a synonym for the inane manner in which the opposition to Donald Trump has responded since losing the presidential election.
In a quirk of the schedule, the Panthers had back-to-back west coast games. In order to save time, travel, and the expense of going back and forth on successive weekends, the Panthers opted to stay out west.
In so doing the team had go about its business as a team for a period of about 10 days, and when they do that there is a dress code. Star quarterback Cam Newton, who has been known for his flashy wardrobe, chose to disobey the dress code and was benched by head coach Ron Rivera to start the game against Seattle.
As luck would have it, back-up QB Derek Anderson’s first play from scrimmage was intercepted leading to a quick field goal by the Seahawks. It was meaningless in the embarrassing 40-7 loss, but local media has been stirring the pot ever since.
Whether Rivera is responsible for passing down the punishment or whether it came from owner Jerry Richardson, the incident has greater implications than simply sitting out for the first play of a game.
When things go his way, nobody on the Panthers team can be more charming than Cam Newton. He is young, articulate and a superb athlete. When his team was unbeaten last year Newton began giving away footballs to kids in the stands after touchdowns. The world was his oyster and the fans loved it.
But then came Super Bowl 50 and the favored NFC champions were beaten by Denver. Newton walked out of the post-game press conference in a fit of anger.
This season the decline has been a frustrating injury-filled nightmare and there has been “no joy in Mudville” to say the least.
But let’s take it as far back as November 8th when Donald Trump became president-elect.
Charles Barkley used to say that he was not a role model for young NBA fans. Barkley is a smart, outspoken man, but like it or not, he was a role model, as are all athletes in the public eye. And as are also, presidents and politicians and entertainers.
If a team has rules that allow players to dress any way they choose, fine. But the team is first and foremost a “team” and the rules are the rules for everyone. Salaries do not matter. Talent doesn’t count. Rules are rules and Newton knew the rules.
Yes, he has freedom of speech, but if the Panthers tell him he must dress in a certain manner, then Cam is an employee and he is required to obey the system as his employer insists regardless of how many millions of dollars he makes or perhaps suffer the consequences.
In 2016 the NFL is losing millions of dollars and fans thanks to the antics of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who takes a knee during the National Anthem rather than stand.
Now, Kaepernick may play in California and his protest may be condoned by his football team, but the “red states” of America noticed and quickly registered how tired they are of having everything under sun crammed down their throats by pseudo-intellectual PC thinking.
For the record, Kaepernick didn’t even vote.
He can, however, get away with his silliness because his team allows him to do so. Newton’s team, on the other hand, does not.
Panthers players have been told to stand for the anthem. Newton has even challenged that ruling by fiddling with a towel around his collar rather than holding his hand over his heart.
Trump-grumbling has magnified since the day he defeated Hillary Clinton. There have been complaints about every action the new president has taken since he was elected, yet it is still more than a month before he takes the oath of office. The people doing all the complaining are the “Kaepernicks” of the world. Things did not go their way so they resort to Play-Doh and stuffed animals to overcome their grief.
Imagine if the current generation had been the ones who were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. We would all be speaking German or Japanese and sitting in padded rooms with our coloring books.
If a team sets down rules, the rules are there for a reason. Jerry Richardson pays the bills and he has a right to demand that his players live up to the standards he chooses for the image of his team.
The “everybody-gets-a-trophy” society is going to take a break for at least four years. Hopefully the new administration can straighten some things out and turn some the new generation of “snowflakes” into using good old American common sense like we used to.
The Cam Newtons of the world need to grow up and accept the fact that life comes with ups and downs along with victories and defeats. Without the threat of losing, winning would not be as sweet.
For too long we have refused to accept the rules as set down by our founding fathers in the Constitution. We will begin going back to that rulebook in the middle of January, 2017.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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