When footballer Cam Newton’s stance on race changed earlier this year, it left many Black fans puzzled. But reports of the Carolina Panthers bringing in a white public relations adviser may clear up the confusion.
Sources told Sports Illustrated Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster, reportedly arrived during the recent off-season to improve Newton’s discussions of race relations. Though the athlete’s team denies this, Luntz is no stranger to the Newton’s Panthers.
In 2014, Deadspin reported Luntz’s company began a campaign with the team and the 27-year-old player. It included an effort to improve the image of the players and the organization.
“He is primed to be one of the NFL greats,” Luntz Global told the Panthers of Newton in a memo. “With the right language, he can help cement his place in the NFL as one of the great franchise quarterbacks like Brady, Rodgers, Favre, etc.”
While Luntz declined to comment to SI, his arrival allegedly signaled a change in how Newton views the public’s racially political perception of him.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, the QB told The New York Times people fear him because he is Black.
“I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”
But in an interview with GQ this August, Newton stated the opposite, saying fans’ critiques were “not racism.”
“I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not,” Newton said. “It’s not. Like, we’re beyond that.”
Additionally, when ESPN asked about his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem – which the San Fransisco 49ers player began to spotlight Black oppression – he avoided focusing on race.
“We’re all the same color,” Newton remarked. “That’s the big picture”
“We know a lot of scrutiny happens when athletes start talking about race,” he added. “But the truth of the matter is we just gotta do right by each other, no matter what color you are.”
The change in opinion falls in line with Luntz’s view of Kaepernick.
He posted a skeptical tweet during the 49ers Sept. 1 game when the team’s quarterback kneeled.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) September 2, 2016
Days later on Sept. 13, Luntz shared another unfavorable message about Kaepernick.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) September 13, 2016