Cam Newton, playing Santa, said he won’t leave the Panthers unless they get rid of him

Cam Newton stands with staff members of Westerly Hills Elementary school as part of his 6th...
Cam Newton stands with staff members of Westerly Hills Elementary school as part of his 6th Annual Santa CamÕs Surprise Sleigh on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. Over $130,000 was distributed to 5 organizations, including Phillip O. Berry High School, Westerly Hills Elementary, UrbanPromise After-School and Summer Camp, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, and the MenÕs Shelter of Charlotte.(David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer)
Updated: Dec. 18, 2019 at 6:14 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Cam Newton didn’t want to reflect on his 2019. More precisely, he didn’t want to keep “dwelling on the negativity” of what the year has presented for the Panthers quarterback.

Instead Newton wanted to focus on spreading holiday cheer and giving back at his sixth annual Santa Cam’s Surprise Sleigh event. But while he may have mostly avoided talking about the past, the future was the unavoidable elephant in the room. The quarterback made five stops, along with a caravan of partners and volunteers, at the different organizations he was impacting around Charlotte Tuesday afternoon.

As he served meals for about an hour at his final stop of the day at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, Newton spoke with everyone who came up to him, including a variety of NFL fans. While there wasn’t a recent performance on the field to trash talk with him, Newton did respond to the hot topic in the room surrounding his future in Carolina.

“I’m a die-hard Panthers fan,” one man said. “Me too,” Newton responded.

Another went back to Newton multiple times pleading for him to stay.

“Don’t leave us, man. Don’t leave us,” one Panthers fan requested. Newton’s response? “I won’t. They got to ship me off for me to leave … In order for me to leave, they got to get rid of me. It’s not up to me.”

While 2019 might not have been a year to look back on positively for Newton, he ended it by giving away over $130,000 over the course of one afternoon around Charlotte just a few days after the Panthers announced Newton as their Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, the NFL’s award that highlights players’ work off the field.

This year’s Santa Cam donation was the largest yet from the event yet coming on the heels of his eighth annual Thanksgiving Jam feeding over 1,300 kids and families.

The day capped off Newton’s charitable week in Charlotte after he hosted 10 patients from Levine’s Children’s Hospital at the Panthers game vs. the Seahawks, where he was also honored for the Walter Payton award. Newton referred to watching the game from his suite for the first time in nine years as “disgusting” because he wanted to be playing on the field for the kids instead.

“It was an oxymoron so to speak,” Newton said. “Doing the good for the event with the Levine’s Children’s Hospital, but at the same time, you would have wanted it to be under different circumstances. You would want them to be watching you play. But at the end of the day, you know your purpose and this shall pass as well. Me knowing and having full faith everything will be better in the coming months.”

Newton held the event despite having surgery on his left foot for a Lisfranc injury just over a week ago in New York. He rode around on a scooter with his foot wrapped up, weaving in and out and often standing on one leg for long periods of time.

He played in the first two games of the year after suffering his injury in the team’s third preseason game vs. the Patriots. He and the team made the decision to sit out in order to try and get back to full health and then was placed on injured reserve in November. He missed more games this year than he has in every other season of his career combined.

There has been significant speculation that the Panthers may move on from Newton this offseason as the team could save $19.1 million in cap space in 2020 by letting him go with one year left on his deal.

But despite the hindrance his leg brought to event, Newton felt it was important to do things the same way he had done them in the past.

“These are the events that I wanted to have, and I don’t think the same impact would have been as lasting without me being here,” Newton said.

Newton’s afternoon began at Phillip O. Berry High School where he spoke with a group of high school student-athletes and donated $15,000 to the school’s athletic program. He answered their questions on a variety of topics, including dishing out advice on making the transition from high school to college and sharing what being in the NFL has meant to him.

At Westerly Hills Elementary he surprised every school staff member, from teachers to janitors to bus drivers, with $100 VISA gift cards. While making a $25,000 donation to UrbanPromise After-School and Summer Camp, he stopped and spent an hour with the kids in their after-school program, including holding a very competitive game of musical chairs.

Donations of $25,000 dollars each to the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Men’s Shelter concluded the evening. The food bank showed their support to Cam as well with a banner that read, “Cam you’re our man of the year every year.”

Despite being sick and forced to get around on one leg, Newton spent a large part of his Tuesday just interacting with people from the various groups. Just being around Charlotte.

How much the nine year veteran will be in Charlotte next year is still to be determined. A lot of it depends on how that foot, hanging off the end of a scooter, wrapped up in a bright red sock, recovers.*

As he prepared to head off into the night, he was having one last conversation with a Panthers fan and responded to the idea that he would leave simply.

“Why would I want to do that?”

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