Speed's Two Cents: Cam Newton's Not A Thug

In lieu of a new PA (Drizzle and I are working on some things at the moment), here are my two cents on the Cam Newton situation. As with some of my articles and pieces, viewer discretion is advised as there are some "NSFW" terms used in this piece. 

This is not an apology piece for thinking that the Carolina Panthers would fall to the Arizona Cardinals. It, based on their play against Seattle, was a possible outcome. Nor is this post a "Dear White People, stop hatin' on Cam" post. However, and you can send the "you niggers stick together" tweets to @SpeedontheBeat, Cam Newton is seemingly hated and labeled a "thug" because he's a young black dude.


"But Speed, Russell Wilson is black and he's not hated. People love Russell. Same with Steph Curry." Yes, that's true. But, here's the thing: Russell Wilson and Steph Curry, even as black men who're proud to be black, fall into that category of black folks that (SOME) non-black people love because of, you know, their "well-spoken" demeanor. That's a whole 'nother can of worms that I'll probably open at some other point.


For now, however, we're talking Cameron Jerrell Newton.


The guy can pass footballs off to little kids in the stands, wear adorable shirts featuring him and his kid dabbing, and could probably win the Super Bowl with five passing touchdowns and three running scores. People would still probably get on social media and call him a "thug" or a "nigger" because he doesn't fit the mold of what's commonly thought of as acceptable in sports. Cam Newton is a bit of a showboater, I'll give you all that. However, if you were, internet folk who call Newton a "thug," the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL and led your team to the Super Bowl and a 15-1 regular season record, wouldn't you want to dance a bit, too? How is that thuggish? I'm an English major, so let's talk words and meanings and whatnot.

The word "thug" is derived from an group of Indian assassins called "Thuggee," which is, apparently, pronounced "toog-ee," meaning that "thug" would be pronounced "toog."

The Original "Thugs"

According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word was in 1810 in the Hindi and Urdu word "thag," meaning thief, referring to those aforementioned "Thugs." That same dictionary defines "thug" in the modern sense as being "a violent criminal." Some linguists, such as John McWhorter, heard during this NPR (yeah, I know) interview, have seen this word take on a code for "nigger" or some other racially-charged epithet towards people who are Black.

The word "thug," for me, usually means someone who doesn't want to accomplish shit for themselves and would rather just sit around and do no-goodnik bullshit. A "thug" is someone who doesn't want to do better--either to counteract the bullshit systemic racism has brought upon them or to just achieve more than what they're already getting--and is fine with not doing better.

How I differentiate between a "bad thug" and a "good thug" is rooted in, for instance, Tupac Shakur's philosophy of being a thug (THUG LIFE), someone who's saying "fuck the system and I'm going to better my communities by any means." A "bad thug" is just that: a nogoodnik-ass motherfucker who wants to destroy themselves and their world. But, most people don't see that difference and use the word "thug" to describe anyone--usually someone who's black--who's destructive to their communities.

It's a very loaded word and one that I, admittedly, still have trouble grasping its full meaning and implications today. I don't have (all) the answers, Sway. But, these days, the word seems especially directed to counter-act movements such as BLM. That's why I have such a problem with the word used to, for instance, describe, en masse, the Freddie Gray protesters.

Back to Cameron Jerrell Newton, Cam's not out there beating his fiancee, drinking on camera, smoking weed after failed drug tests, doing wrestling moves and injuring himself, committing violent crimes, and so on. Newton is out here doing motivational speaking engagements and has non-profits set up to help folks, has a college degree (after going back to college during his career), and is out here being a motivating force for the next generation--something that a lot of NFLers can't really say they're doing.

A video posted by Cam Newton (@cameron1newton) on


That's not a thug in the "oh, he's a black guy who's up to no good" sense. That's a young dude who's kicking ass in the NFL, dances a bit, and passes TD footballs to kids in the crowd--while still trying to better himself and those around him.

So, long story short: Cam Newton is probably the furthest thing away from the racially-charged meaning of "thug" that you can imagine. Get off his dick and just enjoy the Super Bowl. Besides, if Cam's not your flavor, Peyton Manning's playing against him. Just, you know, don't make your disdain of Cam be rooted in racially-charged bullshit. Hate him for shredding through your team's defense, not because he's embracing his blackness.

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