Panthers' Newton seen as 'lightning rod' for controversy - | WBTV Charlotte

Panthers' Newton seen as 'lightning rod' for controversy

(Brody O'Connell | WBTV) (Brody O'Connell | WBTV)
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Cam Newton is one of the most recognizable names in the NFL. Despite his successes on the professional level, he has also become one of the most love and hated quarterbacks in the NFL.

Newton, while answering a question Wednesday afternoon about why he is such a lightning rod for controversy, suggested that his race may play a factor.

“I am an African American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” Newton told reporters.

Newton seemed partially reluctant to give that answer. He went on to say that he plays the game the way he likes to play it.

“Here I am. I am doing exactly what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when I look in the mirror it’s me.” Newton said.

Since Newton’s comments, a firestorm has erupted online. Fans and former players have given their own opinions for why Cam Newton is cause of so much controversy.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't believe Newton should have to fight perceptions about race.

"I think he has always strived to have that separation," Rivera said. "I don't think he wants to be known as an African-American quarterback; he wants to be known as a quarterback. I think that is what drives him, to be able to transcend those boundaries, which I think is great."

Rivera, who is Hispanic, said he has battled that notion to some degree himself.

"It really should be about your merits more than anything else," the coach said. "More about what you have accomplished, what you have done."

Thursday afternoon Star Lotulelei told WBTV that race has never been a dividing factor inside the locker room.

“We have diversity on the team but it doesn’t separate us,” Lotulelei said. “We play for each other. We love each other, and that is what has brought us this far.”

Rivera said some people may simply not like Newton because of his personality.

Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher weighed in on the issue during an interview with USA Today.

“You know who I like the way he celebrates is Peyton. He kind of gives the guy a handshake and goes back to the sidelines. I think that’s a great celebration right there,” Urlacher told USA Today. “You don’t see him dancing. You don’t see him doing all of that stuff. Even when he gets a first down he doesn’t do anything.”

Similar statements have been made from fans, particularly from Seattle.

A Seattle man has started an online petition to ban Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton from the Seahawks stadium during the 2016-17 NFL season.

“Ban Cam Newton From Century link field. He is one of the most unsportsmanlike quarterbacks in the NFL and deserves to be banned from Century Link Field. He dislikes Washington as a whole anyways, so why not move to make this possible,” the Petition said.

Tight End Greg Olsen made it clear Thursday that he is not bothered by the attention that Newton attracts.

“It goes without saying that we are very thankful that he is our quarterback,” Olsen said. “We take a lot of pride in doing our job around him.”

Despite some strong resentment for Newton, he has managed to dance his way right into Super Bowl 50. 

Copyright 2016 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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