Sunday night, word started to spread across the internet that the New England Patriots had come to a one-year deal with former Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton.
This news was not entirely unexpected. The New England Patriots have had a big question mark at the quarterback position ever since Tom Brady jumped ship to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they let the draft go by without trying to bolster the position. For his part, Cam Newton may not have had as legendary a career as Brady, but it has been solid all around. After being released by the Panthers around the same time Brady left the Patriots, New England seemed the most logical place for him to land.
This partnership is also a chance for those involved to prove something to both themselves and others. Over the course of two decades, the New England Patriots have had a brilliant run by earning 6 Superbowl trophies. One would think, after that, that they had nothing left to prove. But that would be incorrect. Each of those championships came with Tom Brady serving as the field general. Many question if the organization could repeat this magic without him at the helm. In particular, many eyes will be watching the New England coach, Bill Belichick, to see if he can win without Brady.
Cam Newton’s career with the Panthers has been solid for the most part. Drafted in 2011, he won the offensive rookie of the year award for his performance that season. Additionally, he has been a 3 time pro-bowler, he has led his team to a Superbowl, and set the record for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. However, the last couple of seasons have been rough for him. Beset by injuries, many questioned whether or not he would be able to return to the competitive league and perform at a high enough level. The Carolina Panthers, for one, were not willing to take that bet and released him several months ago. But in New England, he will get a new chance to prove himself.
Now, all of this is interesting to football fans and, undoubtedly, the outcome of this story is one that those who follow the sport will look for in the season ahead. But there is another name that has to be involved in this conversation as well. A name that will give it a bit of a larger impact in American society. That name is Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick is, as most of us know, the former 49ers quarterback who made a name for himself for kneeling during the national anthem. He has been an outspoken advocate for racial justice and a critic of police. Several seasons ago, he walked away from a contract offer in hopes that a better offer from a different team would come along. That hope was in vain and he has not played in the NFL for three seasons.
The reason for his unemployment, according to him, was his protests. His claim was that no team wanted to hire him because he knelt during the anthem and they feared the controversy. In 2017, he even pursued legal action against the NFL for conspiring against him to keep him out of a job. The two parties reached a settlement at a later date.
But is that the reason for his unemployment? His record says no. Or, at least, it says that’s not the only reason. His career, like Cam Newton’s, started off pretty well with a Superbowl appearance. But his seems to have peeked early. After this early success his numbers in passing yards, pass completions, touchdowns, and quarterback rating went into steady decline. At no point did he rebound or show promise of future success.
Still, experience might have landed him a backup position in the league somewhere. But the money he wanted seems to have kept that from being an option and no team was willing to have that locker room distraction and public controversy over a backup.
So what does he have to do with Cam Newton and the New England Patriots? Because Kaepernick is still looking for a job in the NFL. Not only that, but the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resultant focus on racial justice in America has driven many to his corner as he continues to lobby for one.
In June, Representative Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts Tweeted out that the NFL owed Kaepernick an apology and that the Patriots should sign him. Additionally, the commissioner of the NFL himself, Roger Goodell, has stated that he’s urging teams to sign Kaepernick. Yet no one has.
I view this as a good thing.
I’ve always loved the game of football but have been dismayed the last few seasons as the league has bent over backwards to appease the politically correct crowd. This crowd has never been more voracious and insatiable than it has been in the last few months. In the face of that pressure, the New England Patriots did the thing that made the most sense from a football perspective, they signed the better quarterback.
This tells me that the teams of the NFL are still businesses making decisions that speak to their bottom line. The Patriots owners want to earn money. And the teams that earn money are the teams that win. The teams that win are the teams that sign the best players. Colin Kaepernick may indeed be a talented football player (you have to be in order to play in the NFL), but Newton has the better record, has showed more promise for future success, and was certainly more deserving of being signed.
Another factor to consider is, in fact, a non-factor; that is race. As both of these players are African-American, no one can come forward and accuse the Patriots of racism by signing a white quarterback over Kaepernick. And in the NFL, a white quarterback was certainly available, but the Patriots chose Newton over both Kaepernick and any white alternative. Because he was the best person for the job.
So, this upcoming season, when I turn on football on after church on Sunday, I will be looking to the New England Patriots and cheering for them just a little bit. Not because they’re my team, but because in a country being turned upside down by politically correct bullies, they stood up made the non-politically correct choice.