NEWSFLASH: Cam Newton & Rob Gronkowski Don’t Owe You Their Personalities
Only a few weeks ago, the biggest topic of conversation surrounding the NFL was regarding the clear double standard in the way that the media treated Cam Newton in comparison to Peyton Manning leading up to and after Super Bowl 50.
Newton's sullen, discontent attitude and failure to finish his press conference after the Panthers' loss to the Broncos had many calling him a poor sport and sore loser. Most of those people failed to mention that Peyton Manning once displayed some post-Super Bowl petulance of his own when he blew off the customary postgame handshake with Drew Brees after the Saints beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
The gratuitous adoration placed on Manning stood in stark contrast to the unwarranted level of criticism placed on Newton. Now just a few weeks later, the double standard in regards to Newton and other black NFL players is being reiterated; this time in reference to Rob Gronkowski's recent party cruise.
On Monday afternoon, former Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara tweeted conspicuously about "Gronk's Party Ship," employing some intentionally sarcastic emoji eyeballs. That prompted responses from Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson and Texans cornerback Charles James II that clarified that all three players are among those who feel that Gronk's ability to get away with such a thing is a right that not all NFL players enjoy.
Their beef doesn't seem to be with Gronk, per se; nor should it be. Gronkowski, by all accounts, has done nothing wrong. He has been unabashedly open about his love of partying while also maintaining a rigorous devotion to his full-time job as one of the best players in the NFL. As far as we know, he is just openly exercising his right to enjoy booze, loud music, shirtless fist-pumping and the occasional porn star hookup.
The problem that Amukamara and company are addressing is the vastly different way that people, specifically the media, treat players like Newton when they don't adhere to the unfair expectations that are placed on the way they conduct their personal lives. By and large, Gronkowski is beloved and his partying is excused as the antics of an uber-wealthy frat bro who has earned his right to play hard by working equally hard. Fair enough. But can any of us deny James' suggestion that the narrative surrounding this four-day bacchanal on the Atlantic would be entirely different had it been thrown by Newton instead?
No, we can't.
There's no denying that Newton and many other loud, bordering-on-obnoxious personalities in the NFL would be under far more scrutiny were they to engage in the kind of extracurricular activities that Gronkowski does; all of which would be unjust. (And if we were really honest, I think we could all agree that the only reason Gronk gets as many passes as he does it because people don't have the energy to hate him and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the same time.)
The fact of the matter is that despite what so many people believe, rich athletes don't owe fans anything other than their very best on the football field. You can like Gronkowski, or not. You can like Newton, or not. Either way, neither of them should have to care whether or not you'd want to be friends with them. If athletes obey the laws of the land, treat other human beings with decency and honor the obligation to their fans to earn their lofty paychecks with hard work, then that should be that.
Somewhere along the line people started to believe that all NFL superstars are required to be perfect brand-pushing automatons like Peyton Manning. That's just not how it goes.
We are taught as children that every single person on earth is special and unique. Some celebrities are more naturally likeable than others, because that's how the world works. I find this one lady that rings up my groceries at Ralph's to be a miserable grouch, but she certainly owes me no explanation as to why she's a miserable grouch. As long as everything is rung up correctly, bagged so I can take it home and she doesn't punch me in the face on my way out the door, she's completed our transaction according to the demands and expectations of our capitalist society.
Whether it's Gronk's Party Ship or Cam Newton's dancing and/or pouting, there is far too much time spent trying to psycho-analyze people who are doing nothing other than behaving the way that humans behave. It's high time people realize that subjective opinions about an athlete's general temperament are usually nothing more than an excuse to employ prejudice, discrimination and racism and disguise it as "analysis."
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