Tom Brady was our Captain America, an elderly fella that looked great in red, white and blue. A shibboleth of our past, he brought victory to New England. He gave us the quick pass and the deep throw. Each year, he eased six states into harsh winter most of the country can’t even fathom. As leaves changed, snows fell and the ponds froze, we sat warm inside comforted by clam chowder, chili and a growing pile of trophies.
He was grounded here in our homes and gained our respect. His value of family and sacrifice were more than just a garnish on the game. He shared all glory with his wife, children, city and offensive line. It’s estimated that he accepted between 60 and 100 million dollars in pay-cuts to allow for better recruitment during his tenure in Foxborough.
And I still like watching Tom play for the Bucs. It was a good relationship and I wish him the best. After all, he was our Captain America.
But just because Steve Rogers moves on doesn’t mean we still don’t need the hero. I believe Cam Newton to be our Sam Wilson. I’ve had Cam on my fantasy team before and I loved him for more than just his rushing yards. I remember the first time I saw him being interviewed on TV. He was wearing a suit, spoke eloquently and was courteous with the interviewer. He was self reflective and showed a level of class one rarely sees in professional athletics. It was his demeanor, not his threads that won me over. When I heard he was coming to New England, I was excited. Sure, we don’t have a Thanos, a Red Skull or a Winter Soldier, but we have our bad guys.
When Cam Newton committed to coming north, he took a paycut, but like the QB tweeted, “This is not about the money for me, this is about respect.” That’s honor. We’ve had a great deal of figures in our modern cultural landscape, Black men being handed the reigns of great legacy. As these reigns are handed over, those who are loyal care most that the legacy is honored.
When I saw Avengers Endgame in theatres, the audience cheered when Steve Rogers handed his shield to Sam Wilson. The cheers weren’t some shallow attitude on race relations. These cheers were the celebration of the continued honoring of an honored legacy. The Falcon wasn’t some archetype of the “Black best friend.” He was a valued team mate and an American hero. He risked life and limb for values our nation holds dear.
I don’t know what Cam Newton’s politics are and I’m not sure of his thoughts on race. What I can say is what I saw when he came out for this season's opener. Cam stood, arms locked with his team mates for our national anthem. I saw honor. I saw a leader. I saw the man in red, white and blue that I thought we had lost. It was a great reminder that Captain America and our country as a whole aren’t about some set of phenotypes. This nation and its heroes stand apart by honoring the values stitched in uniforms, flags and jerseys. For each man’s decision, there is a reason. Stand or kneel, I won’t assign malintent. We’re just men and I believe most of those who kneel to be good of heart.
Now that Cam Newton has contracted COVID, I wish him good health and speedy recovery. Some kneel in protest; some kneel in prayer. For Cam Newton, I’ll do the latter and whatever else I can for him, the legacy of my team and the honor of my country. It’s like Sam Wilson said, “Captain America needs my help; there’s no better reason to get back in.”
#UNDECIDED2020 is my cross country trip as an undecided voter, committed to having good faith political conversations. This is the first of a set of accompanying essays. You can follow the journey: