Charles Barkley once said “I am not a role model” in a now infamous Nike commercial.
That’s probably my favorite sports related commercial, and I think we all need to watch it again after this week’s Cam Newton controversy. For those who aren’t familiar, Cam is catching some serious heat and he lost his Oikos endorsement deal, because he said he thought it was “funny” that a female reporter asked him about Devin Funchess’ improved route running.
Obviously this was offensive to the reporter who asked the question as she’s clearly qualified because she’s a professional journalist. Cam was disrespectful to her, there’s no question about it.
However, I think it’s quite the leap to automatically jump to “Cam doesn’t respect women.” And I think it’s even more absurd for anyone not directly involved in the exchange to deeply care. At this point, we know Cam Newton. He slips up every now and then, he doesn’t hold political office, he’s a professional athlete. He’s a quirky dude with a weird- ass fashion sense and a propensity to make waves in the media. I don’t even think his reaction had anything to do with a disrespect for the reporter’s football knowledge, I think he got caught in a classic situation where you know it’s not right to laugh or smile, but you can’t help it. As I tweeted yesterday, I think this all has to do with the colloquial definition of “route”:
This could perfectly explain why he started smirking when she said “route” and why he responded with “I think it’s funny to hear a female talking about routes.” Does it make the situation any better? Well, that’s for you to decide, but I think it does. If we adopt this explanation, it just means Cam slipped up and had an immature moment. It doesn’t mean he thinks women don’t know about football or aren’t qualified to cover it. We’ve all been there before, laughing when we know we shouldn’t be.
Cue the Barenaked Ladies…
How can I help it if I think you’re funny when you’re mad
Trying hard not to smile though I feel bad
I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral
Can’t understand what I mean?
Well, you soon will
I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve
I have a history of taking off my shirt
This whole incident highlights a much bigger issue in sports today. We view athletes in this super human light where they’re supposed to be political, societal and sometimes even religious leaders.
These guys didn’t sign up for this, we take liberties and make them role models when, in reality, there’s no reason for sports fans all over the world to get triggered by the Carolina Panthers QB’s press conference. As we all know, when it comes to the internet, pageviews, listens and clicks are the media’s lifeblood and you’re simply ignorant if you don’t think this is at the heart of the internet culture that loses it’s mind at every possible societal occurrence in sports. We all live in Take City, USA and there are banks popping up on every cyber street corner.
As a result, every big athlete has become a societal and political beacon, because we made them one without their consent. Why does it make sense to look to LeBron for political guidance? Why does it make sense to lose our minds over a Cam presser? Why do we care about football players exercising their constitutional right to protest? The answer: because there’s big money involved, we’re all dumb and we’re addicted to takes. The majority of social media users don’t see that money, but the media corporations do. They try to rattle us so that they can multiply their stacks, and boy do they succeed.
At this point, we treat athletes like a weird high school kid treats a girl he claims to be dating even though she has no idea who he is. People ride or die for their favorite athletes everyday on the internet, firing out takes that have real consequences and sometimes even cause people to lose their jobs. It’s hilarious in a strange, sadistic way. As we’ve seen with the President on Twitter and fake news Facebook articles during the election, social media shit can get serious real quick. Pretty soon takes will be the new currency and if you’re not banging out fuego posts, you’ll be a hobo. Well, that’s assuming Trump’s tweets don’t start a world war and make all of this irrelevant. What a time to be alive.