If you’ve been following (American) football, you probably heard that over the weekend, while playing against the Titans in Tennessee, Cam Newton whipped out a popular dance called “The Dab” to celebrate scoring a touchdown. And not just any touchdown, but an incredibly hard one that involved the Carolina Panthers quarterback rushing, pushing and holding on to the pigskin for dear life to get through Titan defense and over the goal line. And he did it.
So the 6’5″ star quarterback danced to his heart’s content for eight seconds doing “The Dab,” a dance that was popularized by Atlanta-based rap group Migos and has since spread. The dance is basically leaning into one’s elbow. Newtown (born and bred in Atlanta) then lifted both arms in the air, as if flexing, all to a beat in his head. And that was about it.
That was until members of the defense, salty about Newton’s celebration, rushed at him. In a defiant response, Newton continued to dance right in their faces for another second or two. As he put it in a post-game press conference, “I’m a firm believer if you don’t like me to do it, then don’t let me in.” As in, don’t let him in the end zone.
And as Newton pointed out, fans of the player love when he does it, instructing him to “Dab on them folks!” when he’s in the end zone. And everyone who saw him “Dab on them folks” in Tennessee loved it enough to share the clip of Newton’s dance moves all over social media.
Well, not everyone loved it, exactly.
One woman, a Tennessee mother by the name of Rosemary Plorin, was outraged by the display and felt that Newton was demonstrating unsportsmanlike conduct. Oh, and also traumatizing her child. Here’s the open letter she sent to the Charlotte Observer:
Dear Mr. Newton,
Congratulations on your win in Nashville today. Our team played well, but yours played better. Kudos to the Panthers organization.
That game happened to be my nine year old daughter’s first live NFL experience. She was surprised to see so many Panthers’ fans sitting in our section of the stadium; that doesn’t happen much at fourth grade football games. And she was excited we were near the end zone, so we would be close to the “action,” particularly in the second half.
Because of where we sat, we had a close up view of your conduct in the fourth quarter. The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the ‘in your face’ taunting of both the Titans’ players and fans. We saw it all.
I refuse to believe you don’t realize you are a role model. You are paid millions of dollars every week to play hard and be a leader. In the off season you’re expected to make appearances, support charities, and inspire young kids to pursue your sport and all sports. With everything the NFL has gone through in recent years, I’m confident they have advised that you are, by virtue of your position and career choice, a role model.
And because you are a role model, your behavior brought out like behavior in the stands. Some of the Panthers fans in our section began taunting the hometown fans. Many Titans fans booed you, a few offering instructive, but not necessarily family friendly, suggestions as to how you might change your behavior.
My daughter sensed the change immediately – and started asking questions. Won’t he get in trouble for doing that? Is he trying to make people mad? Do you think he knows he looks like a spoiled brat?
I didn’t have great answers for her, and honestly, in an effort to minimize your negative impact and what was otherwise a really fun day, I redirected her attention to the cheerleaders and mascot.
I could tell she was still thinking about it as we boarded a shuttle back to our car. “I guess he doesn’t have kids or a Mom at home watching the game,” she added.
I don’t know about your family life Mr. Newton, but I think I’m safe in saying thousands of kids watch you every week. You have amazing talent and an incredible platform to be a role model for them. Unfortunately, what you modeled for them today was egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship.
Is that what your coaches and mentors modeled for you, Mr. Newton?
Interesting. I saw what Mama Plorin wrote, but all I read from this diatribe was sore loser. Because, if she’s honest, she could admit that this letter wouldn’t have been written if a Titans player had pulled out such moves after scoring, or you know, if the 2-7 Titans had actually won. But because they didn’t, she decided to write an open letter reprimanding a grown man as though he were her 9-year-old daughter. And also because they didn’t win, that’s why Plorin conveniently called out Newton for “poor sportmanship” while ignoring the two Titans players (fellow sore losers Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard) who, in anger, approached Newton about dancing in the end zone they failed to protect. Their decision to try and strongarm the quarterback into docility is the reason he continued dancing, or “taunting” them.
And what’s also interesting is the fact that people, like Plorin, continue to expect entertainers to be anything and everything to their children. Their job is to entertain, and it’s Plorin’s job to parent. But instead of telling her daughter that Newton was just celebrating his touchdown and that the wild adults in their section, who control their own minds and behavior, had let the direction of the game get to them, she let the poor girl think Newton is a spoiled motherless brat who lives to enrage others. All this before instructing her daughter to stare at cheerleaders and a mascot because she didn’t know what to say, instead of talking straight to her in the way an impressionable child needs to be communicated with. If Plorin can’t create a teaching moment out of something so harmless, it’s not the entertainers her child sees that have failed.
But what’s most interesting, a.k.a, wack, is how the simplest, most innocent things Black folks do, even in a state of joy, are painted as negative, destructive, detestable deeds. As Veronica Wells put it, “White folks are so mad at our jubilation.” We’re talking about an 8-second dance that Newton has done time and time again this season. A dance that’s been done by just about everybody, including LeBron James before game time, and even this hilarious football coach at Clemson. A dance that signifies nothing but folks having a good time, being happy, and yes, feeling themselves just a little bit. But when the team you have led is 9-0 (one of two teams left with a perfect record), it’s safe to say that you’ve earned the right to feel yourself just a little.
So yes, Newton has earned the right to “dab on them folks.” Feel free to join in.