Earlier today, a GQ profile of superstar quarterback Cam Newton dropped. It's the type of story GQ has run thousands of times; spend a couple days with a handsome and famous man, marvel at how he's regarded by "regular" people, ask him about space and shit, and take dozens of pictures of him dressed in clothes only he and Lex Luther can afford. It was set to be an engaging and professional but ultimately forgettable piece…until Cam was asked a few questions regarding race:
In January, right before the Super Bowl, you said: “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”
“I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not. It’s not. Like, we’re beyond that. As a nation.”
You really think so?
“Yeah. I mean, you bring it to people’s attention. But after that, that’s it.”
And Donald Trump:
Do you have an opinion on Donald Trump?
“I don’t. I think he’s an unbelievable businessperson. That’s probably it. But outside of my personal belief, that’s just, you know, my personal belief.”
And the infamous bathroom law in North Carolina:
Did you vote for the North Carolina governor that enacted that bathroom law?
“Um…that’s too personal. You know, I gain nothing by answering it.”
I think the bill is repellent. I’m not trying to be coy.
“I love people too much to care about those type of things.”
This, of course, is the same Cam Newton who, just a few months ago, admitted that he (rightly) believes there's a segment of fans who'll always be uneasy with the thought of a Black quarterback. Particularly one as demonstrative as he is. Between that and a few other examples — including an EBONY profile where he specifically asked to be photographed with a hoodie and a press conference where he provided a quite entertaining (and accurate!) analogy comparing his team's success to grits and collard greens — it seemed as if Cam was poised to join the emerging cadre of "unapologeticially Black" young athletes and entertainers.
But it seems as if he calculated between then and now that it's just more beneficial for him — socially and financially — to be politically neutral, and the words in the profile seem to reflect a man who just doesn't think it's worth it to say anything remotely controversial about race and politics and gender and have it taken out of context and have that be "a thing" for several news cycles.
Unfortunately (for Cam) he calculated wrongly. Today, it's actually more of a story when a prominent Black person claims to be racially/politically neutral or color blind. A famous Black person actively and transparently shying away from any type of racial controversy will result in the creation of a controversy they sought to avoid. He's trending in this way today specifically because he did not want to trend in this way.
Instead, it seems as if Cam wants his clothes to do all of the talking for him now. Unfortunately (for Cam) his foray into high fashion isn't saying "stylish" or "bon vivant" as much as "disapproving auntie at brunch upset she has to pay extra for the salad bar" or "disappointing auntie upset your new girlfriend brought dry poundcake to a family dinner." To be clear, I'm all for bold, counterintuitive, and even gender-bending fashion choices. I'm even for bold fashion choices that might hint at an impending mid-life crisis, as the tapered skinny Levi's (with holes!) and the Jordan 10s I bought last weekend surely indicate. Unfortunately (for Cam) he hasn't yet realized that, in 2016, being unapologeticially Black is actually the trendiest and most fashionable thing he can do.