Comments on Cam Newton's 'clean look' by Panthers' owner gain national attention

Staff writerAugust 25, 2011 

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson appeared on Charlie Rose's excellent talk show this week, discussing a number of topics from the end of the NFL lockout to whether Charlotte was ready for a Super Bowl (not yet because it doesn't have enough hotel rooms, he said) to Charlotte's hosting of the Democratic National Convention (Richardson said he was “sure” that President Obama would give his speech at the DNC in Bank of America Stadium).

What has attracted the most notice, however, was Richardson retelling the story on the show of how he had a conversation with No.1 draft pick Cam Newton several months ago (about three weeks before the Panthers wound up picking Newton). He told Newton then he liked the fact that Newton had no piercings or tattoos and basically that he hoped Newton would keep that clean look.

My colleague Tom Sorensen wrote about this very conversation three months ago in a column, but that one didn't go national.

This time it did with the help of Rose's show and also the influential sports blog ProFootballTalk.com, in which Mike Florio called Richardson's words to Newton “troubling” and “heavy-handed.”

Of course, Richardson has employed the heavily tattooed Steve Smith for years as one of the team's best players. His team signed the even more heavily tattooed Jeremy Shockey in the offseason. I'd venture a guess that well over half the Panthers' players have ink on their bodies somewhere.

Not Newton, though. And Richardson likes that. OK, so what? If Newton gets a tattoo or comes back next offseason with both ears pierced, do you think Richardson is going to fire him?

Of course not. Newton's performance will be graded on the field, as it should be. It's Richardson's right to like the “clean” look. It is also Newton's right to do whatever he wants to with his body, as long as it's legal.

I don't find Richardson's actions out of bounds here. He simply expressed an opinion to Newton, the same one that I will probably express to any of my four children the first time one of them asks to get some sort of tattoo or piercing.

I won't like it and I won't pay for it and I would tell them that. But if they are 18 or older, it's their body, and I'm not going to disown them for it.

Newton can ink himself up like Dennis Rodman and still be beloved if he can get the Panthers to the playoffs. Or he can do everything exactly right off the field during his rookie year, go 1-9 as a starter and be constantly derided by fans (that previous sentence describes Jimmy Clausen).

Bottom line: The NFL is about winning, not about ink. The far more notable story about the Panthers Wednesday concerned linebacker Jon Beason's sudden surgery for Achilles tendinitis.

That could definitely be “troubling.”

This isn't.

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