After the Carolina Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, Cam Newton was not happy. This wasn't a surprise to anyone. His team had just lost the Super Bowl, after all. The way Newton chose to express that unhappiness did come as a surprise, though, and it made many people angry as well.
Newton sulked through his postgame press conference, giving short, angry answers, then abruptly left after two and a half minutes. Broncos corner Chris Harris could audibly be heard in the background calling out Newton's bona fides as a QB, which understandably angered Newton even more, but there are undoubtedly better ways he could have handled the whole thing.
Newton's critics have taken the paternalizing angle of saying that he needs to grow up, man up, etc. His backers have simply stated that a dude has a right to be angry after losing the biggest game of his life in front of millions of people, and he shouldn't have to happily answer questions about that performance immediately afterward if he doesn't want to. We want players to be their authentic selves until they actually do it, basically.
Well, Newton has finally spoken at length about the press conference, two and a half months later. He'd previously confessed to being a "sore loser" and that he wasn't going to "bend for anybody's expectations," but he told Ebony magazine this week that that presser could've been handled a better way.
"I just wasn't ready to talk," Newton told Ebony, via ESPN.com. "Was I mad? Hell, yeah! But there could have been a better way to control it, and that's why I think having more time would have helped."
Having more time between the game and when they have to talk to the media is something other athletes have brought up before. For a variety of reasons, it's not all that practical, but it's understandable for them to want a period of cooling-down time before having to confront disappointing losses like the one Carolina suffered in the Super Bowl.
Newton, though, also noted that his responsibilities to the media were not the only relevant consideration that day. "The truth is, I represent something way bigger than myself," he said. "I'm doing it for [my fans and family] and I felt like I let them down."
As a highly visible quarterback, Newton is a role model for fans everywhere. That's doubly true for him because he is a black quarterback, which is a rarity. He's one of the most high-profile black athletes in the country -- nay, the world -- and what he does and says in public matters for the perception of black celebrity, whether he is comfortable with it or not.
Being an athlete and a role model and your own person all at the same time is a tricky balance to maintain. On 99 percent of days, Newton nails it. He's one of the best players in his sport. He has that picture-perfect megawatt smile. He's brilliant and often hilarious in commercials. He does a ton of charity work for all sorts of causes. By all accounts, he's an excellent role model. He just had a very public bad day and it affected the general public's perception of him. He recognizes that, though, and it sounds like he's going to work to make sure that kind of thing doesn't become a regular occurrence.