‘Dab on Em Cam’ — Fear of a Black Dance Machine

Well, Football Season Is Over. (Thanks Doc.)

But what do we have here? Another team wins and another looses. The world tunes in to watch what has essentially turned into a 4-hour long sketch comedy in the form of multiple commercials. Oh and there’s a football game somewhere in the middle of all that. But there’s been something weird this year.

But there’s been something weird this year. This strange fascination with whether or not Cam Newton’s dancing means…something.

There’s a lot of people that don’t like outward shows of fancy and fun like end zone celebrations. Many feel the players should just “play the game.”

This seems to be the most apparent when those players are black.

I tend to think these people are sad sacks who have never accomplished anything of note in their lives and as a result don’t know what it feels like to want to simply explode in unbridled joy.

As I watch The Big Game, Super Bowl 50, the Carolina Panthers are getting their asses kicked.

It almost seems like the perfect closing to a football season that existed inside some violent, post apocalyptic world where black men and women were literally hunted for sport on the streets of the United States of America.

It seemed fitting then that, on this night, we would see the NFL’s unofficial symbol of black celebration and rebellion, Cam Newton, finally taken down a notch.

Think about it: This is the year where the killers of Tamir Rice seemed to get off, despite video evidence; just like the killers of Freddie Grey are seeming to get off; just like the killers of Sandra Bland (at this time) are seeming to get off. Despite peaceful protests and despite riots…nobody is listening.

And then Cam Newton lost.

No dabbing. No Hitting them Folks.

He didn’t even score himself.

And you have to feel that there is an unnecessarily large number of people who aren’t simply happy because the more “dignified” quarterback won, but because the brash, black dancer finally got put in his place.

Bah, maybe I’m just being negative. I’ve been called that before, but one thing I’ve never been called is stupid. And I’d be stupid to believe that in the wake of what has been one of the most divisive periods in recent memory that there was nothing of note happening here.

No, there was a definitely a story here, perhaps one that shouldn’t have existed. Yet it did exist, and the story carried a lot more weight than what it was worth.

But where are we now? What did we learn, now that everything is over; and not just about sports, but about everything.

It was in 1984 when the NFL team owners got together and in an attempt to corral the Washington, D.C., Redskins’ Fun Bunch away from this new fun-ning that players were doing after they scored. As a result, the owners created a rule to cut down on what they considered “excessive celebrating.” At the time, it was the fun bunch. Later, like in 2009, the owners cracked down on the likes of T.O. and Ocho Cinco. Then again, around 2013, there was another crackdown, but it’s worth to note that — aside from random, non-signature and non-repeated dances — the few dances excused from this crack down seemed to be representations of things NFL owners and officials find comforting, like a military salutes and getting on your knees to pray.

Dancing has always been black folks’ thing (unfortunately). To some, it’s been a scary thing. To even more folks, it’s been an upsetting, maybe even a maddening thing.

But, it’s always been a normal thing. Fans accepted it to a degree and then, for some reason, Cam came along and the narrative changed.

This year, in this era, within the looming and still smoking shadows of Flint, Baltimore and Ferguson; within the outwardly ballooning boundaries of a bubbling social and political revolution; within a space and time where words like “thug” became commonplace code words for entire groups and undesirables a one-man example and display of this brash overt blackness began rubbing people the wrong way.

“Is it necessary?” “Why can’t he just act civil?”


Ugh. Such a condescending term for a game where large men try to purposefully destroy each other.

First, just so that we’re on the same page, there was and never has been anything illegal about Cam’s dab dance. The closest he’s gotten to being penalized was when he used the ball as a prop in a game against the Falcons.

Cam has never even been fined for handing his touchdown ball to a fan.

(Now, to be fair, I haven’t been able to find an instance where Newton was fined or penalized for his celebration. So if you know of one that I don’t, please respond in the comments.)

No, the issues with Cam are, and have always been, in the minds and blackened, shrunken hearts of certain fans who hate him because of…reasons.

I’ll allow you to decide what those reasons are.

If you ask me, the current concept of forced civility that these team owners have been pushing, apparently since ’84, is beginning to stunt our emotional growth.

It was last year in 2015 that Newton upset the Tennessee Titans after a touchdown that put his team way over the “we’re winning” mark. This was one of those moments that fed fuel to the fire. In reality, it was simply a 10 second dance that was only exasperated by the Titans’ Avery Williams not being able to handle losing.

And we can’t forget the subsequent open letter that a Ms. Rosemary Plorin, in the name of her 9-year-old daughter, wrote for Mr. Newton explaining why his 10-second celebration was just too much. The letter went viral across the Internet.

Jesus. Sorry folks, but we have to be stronger than that.

Football Season Is Over…and the assholes are out now.

According to the Big Lead, Cam is “sulking.”

Christ, really?

Immediately after what was probably the worst day of his life Cam seemed less than gracious to reporters during the post-game scrum. He wasn’t mean, mind you, just despondent and glum, as if something really bad had just happened.

In response, media outlets are swooping down like vultures to pick at the bones at this once affront to forced civility. This isn’t about simply winning for them. This is about one more symbol of this generation’s brash, emotion-filled expression being silenced.

The NFL is even called out the company men, bought and sold, to put the nails in the coffin.

Much like when the NFL had former Washington Redskin Wide Receiver Gary Clark come in defense of his former teams’ owner Daniel Snyder in the face of racism charges, Deion Sanders was trotted out to appease the masses with his apologetic and condemnation of Cam Newton in the middle of Marshall Faulk and Michael Irving’s attempt to put the young quarterback’s depression in perspective.

It was as if he literally interrupted their attempts at providing context to give the mainstream what they really wanted to hear.

“Aw, I tried to tell ya that nigga was just crazy.”

Such craziness.

We’re in a crazy world now.

Maniacs are running for the White House; local Michigan governments are purposefully poisoning their citizens to save money; Chicago police departments are conspiring to hide the deaths of unarmed citizens and are getting away with it; and one of the only instances of rebellion that we were getting away with was some fucking football player doing the dab.

Shit, were we scraping the bottom of the barrel for victories.

It’s just football after all.

But hell, I’ll take it, as long as it annoyed someone. And I love when something blacks do annoys someone.

Come on guys toughin’ up, because Football Season is Over and if the only sport worth a damn is riling up the status quo, then you’re in for a long day because that’s our favorite past-time.

So, that being said: Screw Deion Sanders, I see his payoff money falling out of his pants pockets. Screw anyone who feels vindicated because of a loss, as if this proves something. It’s a loss. Only that. It doesn’t end anything.

It especially doesn’t, and shouldn’t, end any discussions about race and bias in our sports or greater culture.

It doesn’t end any discussion about whether the public gives Aaron Rodgers a pass for his celebration or if the Lambeau Leap will ever be similarly criticized. It doesn’t end the discussion of whether there is a bias toward black players and celebration.

(For what it’s worth, there was actually a 2012 study done by two Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management psychology researches that was published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that examined the question of bias in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called after touchdowns.

The two researchers, Erika V. Hall, a doctoral candidate, and Robert W. Livingston, an associate professor of management and organizations, found that a test group of 44 football fans showed a noticeable bias against against black players when it came to end zone celebrations.

Although its a stretch to say such a small study has any bearings on how the NFL is officiated, what it does make clear is that fan racial bias most definitely exists.)

No, these discussions won’t stop, nor should they.

Football Season Is Over, but the ugly themes remain. There are still children in impoverished areas affected by higher levels of lead than Flint. There are still police shootings that need to be investigated. Even though there’s been a steady drop in black crime, there are still war zones like Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore.

There are still Republicans and angry right-wingers obsessed with passing the buck of social reform and refusing to acknowledge that they share a privilege and duty to address issues of bias and corruption.

Football Season Is Over, but there are still scary men with badges who conspire with scary men who sell drugs, so that scarier men in suits can make money.

There’s still a lack of healthcare, there are still wars, there are nukes and bombs, there is still religious intolerance and sexual orientation discrimination.

Football Season Is Over, but damn it, there’s still so much game left to play. And there will always be someone, somewhere, dancing on the field in outward show of brash blackness.

annoying someone.

Thank god.

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