Cam Newton became the latest NFL player Wednesday to address social issues being experienced by African-Americans and other minorities across the United States, but he also expressed frustration over the expectations he's faced regarding his public stance on the matter.
A day after the fatal shooting of an African-American man by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, sparked protests in the city, Newton told reporters "no matter what the gender is, no matter what the age is, we all have to hold each other accountable" for social problems. The Carolina Panthers quarterback also reiterated his efforts to take a proactive stance on matters in the Charlotte community via his foundation.
"I'm a firm a believer of justice. I'm a firm believer of doing the right thing," Newton said. "And I can't repeat it enough of just holding people accountable ... I am not happy with what or how the justice has been kind of dealt with over the years."
Protesters took to the streets in Charlotte overnight and Wednesday morning after Keith L. Scott, 43, was shot and killed by police outside of an apartment complex. Kerr Putney, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said Scott was brandishing a gun and threatening officers before he was shot. Putney said police were examining video footage of the incident as part of their ongoing investigation.
Although Newton emphasized the need for "everybody holding each other accountable and policing yourselves," he expressed dismay over how police shootings of African-Americans have been handled.
"The police brutality is ... it's embarrassing to even talk about," he said. "When you sit up here and list the names, it's crazy to even think about how did this even happen and how do police who take a leave absence and still get paid."
Newton said he faces a very difficult dilemma when taking a public stance on social issues. In July, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett criticized Newton for not being "at the forefront of trying to change what's going on."
"I know that the place that I stand, sometimes it's a lose-lose," Newton said. "You say something in one sense and everybody is saying, 'You're a traitor.' You say something in another sense and, 'Oh, he's just too real and you can't necessarily say that.' So I'm in a position now where it's like if I say something it's going to be critiqued and if I don't say something, 'Oh, you're fake,' or, 'You're a fraud.'
"It's not that I can and I can't, it's just I'm always going to be true to who I am, right?"
Newton went on to say that he sees people based on their actions, adding that racial issues must be seen "through clear-eyed vision on both sides."
Newton's comments come a day after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he has received death threats in the wake of his decision to take a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustices against minorities. Kaepernick's protest has inspired players from around the NFL to sit, take a knee or raise their fist during the anthem in support of his protest.
Newton hopes people understand the approach he is taking in trying to spur change.
"I salute Colin Kaepernick for his stand, for what he stands for, but at the end of the day, I also can make a stand in my own right," Newton said. "That's why I have a foundation and I've been trying to do any and everything to bring the city of Charlotte or wherever I'm around and keep impacting it in a positive way. I'm hoping people see that and do the same thing."