Referees go mute on helmet-to-helmet hits on Cam Newton

Okay. The NFL is supposed to be big on all this safety stuff, right? Concussion protocol is now as much a mandate in the game as the forward  pass. Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, the league’s MVP, wouldn’t know it by all the hits to the head Denver Broncos defenders laid on him during a game revisiting the two Super Bowl 50 combatants.

What’s disturbing is that Denver defenders got away with hitting Newton throughout the Broncos’ 21-20 season-opening win with brute maliciousness in helmet-to-helmet collisions. No flags. No problems, except for the headaches Newton is feeling right about now.

The obvious takeway from this game is does the NFL favor protecting its white star quarterbacks to those of color? Judging by the brain demolition of Newton courtesy of the Broncos, it sure looks like it. I mean, to borrow a line from ESPN’s Hannah Storm, “What does the NFL stand for?”

Cam Newton
Cam Newton

If Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers took the shots to the head the way Newton absorbed, there would have been plenty of penalties called, maybe even some ejections and some huge fine money to give away.

Everybody who watches the NFL know it. The players know it.

It was crazy the way Newton got hit, and the way the referees turned a blind eye. Nothing here, Cam. Keep it moving.

It was a wretched display of shame by the league’s referees. The referees are paid to do a job. They failed to earn their paychecks in this one.

And, if you ask me, those referees should not work another NFL game. At the very least, this crew should be banned from working prime-time games in the future.

This game was not about who won or who lost. It’s about the proper protection of players on the field. The NFL and the bumbling referees working this game just gave their critics more ammunition to put into the firing chamber.

It does not matter if you’re a wide receiver catching the ball over the middle or a running back executing a dive play off tackle; if you get hit in the head, that is suppose to result in an infraction being called.

Newton couldn’t even get that, and he is the 2015 regular season MVP. And I’m tired of all the idiots, including former NFL players who are making a living on TV now, saying Newton is different. He’s big, and that when he runs the ball he is a runner. That’s nothing more than code for defenders to take their shots to stopping the mobile quarterback from dominating a game.

It’s the same nonsense that Mike Vick, Donovan McNabb, Randall Cunningham or even Warren Moon had to be subjected to when they played.

An illegal hit is an illegal hit, no matter how you slice it. It is not Newton’s job to tell referees that he is being hit in the head by defenders. If Newton has to call out this issue to the men black and white stripes, then why do we need those referees in the first place? Those referees see those hits. They just don’t give a hoot.

Maybe they don’t care about the all the concussion lawsuits the NFL has had to settle recently. Maybe they don’t care about the all the black-eye attention generated to the sport of football, thanks to the Will Smith-driven film, “Concussion.”

Looking at this game, it got me wondering if NFL referees pick and choose who they protect and who they don’t protect? Do those referees purposely become one-sided in their judgement calls on roughing the passer and helmet-to-helmet penalties when it comes to protecting prototype, stand-in-the-pocket quarterbacks as opposed to players like Newton or Russell Wilson?

Judging by this first game, it sure looks like it. It didn’t matter if Newton was running the football or standing back in the pocket throwing it, he was whacked in the head more than a couple of times, and the referees didn’t blink. Would it have been different if Newton were of a different skin color?

Of course, this is the speculation, but my guess is yes. If you sniff at certain quarterbacks, a penalty is called. What we saw on Thursday night was one car wreck after another inflicted to Newton’s head by Denver defenders.

On more than several occasions during the nationally televised game on Thursday evening to kick off the NFL regular season, Newtoton was crushed on multiple, bone-crushing hits to the head that was not called by the league’s on-the-field enforcers of safety.

So what gives? I mean, is there a double-standard that referees operate by? Do white quarterbacks get more of the benefit of the doubt than signal-callers of color? Well, a duck would have made those judgement calls. The hits Newton absorbed to the head were clearly blatant, malicious and meant to do harm.

Yet, all he got was a group of guys running around on the football field hitting the mute button. I was deeply disturbed by what I saw. I know I was not the only one who saw the relentless mayhem done on Newton’s head.

It was pretty sickening to digest. My 12-year-old daughter would have had enough guts to flag Denver for their illegal hits on Newton. I wonder what Denver coach Gary Kubiak or general manager John Elway would do if opposing defenders unleashed on their quarterback Trevor Siemian?

What the Broncos’ defensive players did to Newton seemed personal and very vindictive, a rollover from the chirping they did after beating Carolina in the Super Bowl. It was yet just another ignorant display by a bunch of classless thugs that the referees allowed to get away with their treacherous deeds.

If the league says it is about player safety as it has bragged about then those referees should be held accountable for their inaction. Silence is not always golden.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1093 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.

2 Comments

  1. This article has been the most accurate that i have read online about the Newton targeting.
    One critique: It has nothing to do with him and Russel Wilson being african american. Im sure if you think a bit further that would become crystal clear.
    I will let you in on something here …. it is because they arefigureheads of Christianity. Yes they are outspoken Christians.
    Well i could write a book here about all the things ive been able to predict concerning the Nfl (thursdays game included ..i didnt even have to watch it ..i already knew eXactly what was going to happen.. and voila. . -you seen it.)
    If you dont believe the reason why they target him then thats fine .. you can forget the why.
    The point is- The Nfl has been proving thierself extremely corrupt.
    I’ll leave it at that for here and now.
    Thank you for your site.

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