To dance or not to dance

Two weeks ago, an event of great significance roiled the American sports ecosystem. In a game in Nashville, Tennessee, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scored what was essentially a game-clinching touchdown against the Titans. Newton celebrated by dancing. This is not the first time in NFL history that a player has marked a TD by busting a few moves. Nor, as we’ll discuss in a moment, would it be the last. But this particularly display seemed to especially touch a nerve. Titans players didn’t like it and let Newton know about as he was dancing. That’s fine – players get pissed off in the heat of competition and don’t like to be shown up. But it was the post-game reaction featuring, among other things, an angry letter to the Charlotte Observer from a mom who took her kid to the game and found Newton’s behavior disgraceful and a bad example for her kid, that really set the sports world aflame. In fairness, many commentators, on ESPN and otherwise, pronounced what Newton did no big deal. But the fact is that the “dab”  – the dance that Newton danced – became a major topic of conversation for the better part of a week.

I didn’t comment at the time because sometimes (OK, most of the time) this stuff gets tiresome – what seems to me to be an obvious double standard whereby black players receive scrutiny for their behavior not consistently applied to white players.

As it happens, during that same weekend of games, other players engaged in gestures and actions that one might argue would be at least as offensive to the delicate sensibilities of certain fans.

Here’s one:

Here’s another:

(Palmer didn’t deny that he was thrusting his pelvis, but insisted that it was just meant as a hello to a buddy sitting in the stands. The NFL fined Palmer, but the incident received approximately 1/1000th of the coverage of the dab, and only as much as it did because some people pointed out the arguable double standard).

Yesterday, another player danced in the end zone at some length after scoring a touchdown.

It did not generate the firestorm that Newton’s dab did. Which led ESPN”s Robert Flores to wonder today why:

No word yet on whether Flores will be suspended for his “controversial” remarks.

(For historical reference, a piece I wrote two years ago about how Cam is judged compared to other QBs).


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