NESN Debates: Are You Rooting for Cam Newton to Be Successful in NFL? Editor’s note: Each week,’s editorial staff will debate a topic via email in a feature called “Field Judges.” We’ll post the conversation and the ruling on

With Week 1 of the NFL season in the books, the “Field Judges” debate topic this week centers on the league’s most polarizing new face: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Ben Watanabe, Assistant Editor, 10:44 a.m., Monday:

Killa Cam became controversial last year at Auburn when an NCAA investigation found that his father had solicited cash payments from Mississippi State while Newton was being recruited. (Newton and Auburn were never implicated for any wrongdoing.) When added to the alleged laptop-stealing incident in 2008 that caused Newton to get kicked out of the University of Florida, the pay-to-play controversy cemented Newton as a bad egg in some fans’ minds. Many rooted for Oregon in last January’s BCS title game just hoping to see Newton fail.

After Newton’s surprising debut Sunday in which he broke an NFL record with 422 passing yards, the most for any rookie quarterback in his first game, are you rooting for Newton to be successful in the NFL?

John Beattie, Associate Editor, 11:38 a.m., Monday:

I hope Cammer Time succeeds because I’m a fan of good football.

I could care less about where half of these people come from or what they do on their free time — I watch the sport to be entertained and if this young quarterback can make the NFL that more enjoyable, than why not root for him?

After getting 10 combined wins over that last two seasons, Carolina sure could use a break. It’s great seeing bad teams get better and its even better seeing a weekend of blowout-free football. Whats better than an afternoon of football? How about an afternoon of evenly matched teams slugging it out in thrilling battles?

Jashvina Shah, Intern, 12:17 p.m. Monday:

I’m definitely rooting for him to do well. He’s a good quarterback and there’s no proof that he was actually involved with it the money scandal. We just know that his dad was. Even if Newton was involved, violating a rule like that doesn’t take away anything from his ability to play. I keep thinking of Michael Vick. He ran a dog-fighting ring, which is considerably worse than soliciting payments from a school. Vick did his time and now a lot of fans have forgiven him and he’s been tearing up the field for the Eagles. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and say he did steal a laptop. While that probably sticks him on a naughty list, it’s not the worst violation ever, either.

Maybe there are some jaded fans still shaking their heads at Newton, but give it a while, maybe a few weeks to a month, and people probably will forgive the violation. It’s too small of an issue to mar what looks to be a good career in the making. Has he made the greatest decisions? Probably not. But he hasn’t made the most terrible ones, either.

Even with all the controversial allegations going on, I still wanted Cam Newton to win the Heisman because he played well enough and earned it through his ability on the field. As long as he keeps working hard, producing and doesn’t call out his teammates, I hope he succeeds.

Michael Hurley, Senior Assistant Editor, 2:04 p.m., Monday:

I, personally, root for guys that are hated. It’s more fun that way. And people sure do seem to hate Cam Newton.

I understand why people may not be huge fans of the guy. He’s definitely got an ego, and those icon/entertainer quotes certainly rubbed people the wrong way. He also has the aforementioned checkered history, but given the corruption that goes on in college football from coast to coast, you are certifiably insane if you think Newton is one of the only people to have violated any rules.

Those people seem to be rooting so hard against Newton, you almost have to root for the kid. I’d like to see him succeed in part to make those people question their sanity and also to prove all those experts and scouts wrong. Remember that scout who said “If this weren’t Cam Newton, you’d say this guy has no business being on the field”? Well, we’re only one game in, so we don’t have to prepare for his Hall of Fame induction speech, but he sure looked like he had some business being on the field this week.

Plus, to Mr. Beattie’s point, don’t you like watching players with that type of athletic ability perform every Sunday? Isn’t that why you tune in to begin with? Sure, it’s fun to watch Tony Romo melt down on national TV from time to time, but that does get old.

Ben Watanabe, Assistant Editor, 2:57 p.m., Monday:

I find it hard to believe none of us cares about an athlete’s character. The satisfaction many fans felt at seeing Randy Moss get cut by the Patriots and LeBron James lose in the NBA Finals proves that we don’t just watch sports for the entertainment. We enjoy seeing the “good” guys overcome the “bad” guys, however each of us defines “bad.”

There are many athletes whom I find repugnant and would never root for. Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Brett Favre and Plaxico Burress jump to mind. Cam Newton is not one of them.

Newton broke the rules. If anyone believes his father acted without Newton’s knowledge, I have some excellent oceanfront property in Nebraska I’d love to sell you, sight unseen. Whether you think Cecil’s actions should even be illegal under NCAA rules is a different matter entirely; those rules were on the books and Newton felt those rules didn’t apply to him.

That said, those rules didn’t apply to him. Let’s be real. There’s a different set of rules for superstars. Tom Brady is lauded for never asking for special treatment on the field, but would Bill Belichick ever stand for the same type of off-field “distractions” – supermodel wife, GQ photo shoots, UGG boots commercials – from Danny Woodhead? Similarly, a football player I went through freshman orientation with at the illustrious Temple University committed a crime and was kicked out of school. But Newton was bounced from Florida for the laptop incident and still had ample interest from Mississippi State, Auburn and others. One was backup defensive back on the worst Division I-A program in the country. The other was one of the top high school prospects in the country. Talent determines the rules.

Where the Newton haters lose me is by denying Newton possesses this talent. It’s one thing to say “He’s immensely talented but I still don’t like him” and another thing to claim he’s not a rare, incredible talent. Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game; I just plain don’t like him. Although it pains me to admit it, Vick was an upgrade for the Eagles over an aging Donovan McNabb. But the folks who insisted, before Newton had taken so much as a training camp snap, that a 6-foot-5, 250-pound Heisman Trophy winner would never succeed in the pros just struck me as a whole bunch of hooey.

Patrick McHugh, Intern, 1:31 p.m., Tuesday:

Having Cam Newton succeed in the NFL is not bad for the pro game, but it is very bad for the college game. Think about it: Whether Cammy Cam really was involved in any of the allegations against him or not, he won the Heisman, won a national championship and was able to bolt school for the NFL draft before his senior season. Taken first overall, he signed a fully guaranteed $22 million contract and he gets a chance to star at the highest level. Everything for Newton is roses right now.

But let’s say the NCAA does some further investigating and finds that Newton was indeed involved in the pay-for-play scandal more so than just being a pawn for his father. That means he should have been ineligible. USC is finding out the hard way what that means. The school’s national titles were taken away and USC has been placed on a postseason ban. The Trojans have enough clout and recruiting talent to not let this affect them too much, but two years without bowl games is serious cash lost for the school.

The man responsible for USC’s current suspension is Reggie Bush. What happened to him after the NCAA ruling came down? Well, nothing really. He got his Heisman “stripped” but I think we all know he was the best player in college football that season. Now he is in the NFL, he already won a Super Bowl with the Saints and is getting paid handsomely to make plays for the Dolphins while living in waterfront property in Miami. Doesn’t seem like the NCAA has put much of a damper on his life, does it?

The point I’m trying to make is that Bush and Newton are two former college athletes involved in scandal and both were able to leave school early and move on to the professional ranks with only minor damage done to their reputation. It sends a bad message to college athletes that even if you are involved in shady activity, it doesn’t really impact you too much because you’re still going to make lots of money in the pros if you’re good enough. With that in mind, what’s to stop top college players from doing whatever they want in school if they know they can get away with it? To me, this completely undermines the college game, which is already on shaky ground to begin with.

So no, I will not be rooting for Cam Newton, because his success in the NFL is bad for college football, and college athletics in general.

Mike Cole, Assistant Editor, 3:10 a.m., Wednesday:

I’ll buy into P-Mac’s assertion that Newton’s (and Bush’s and everyone else’s) success in the NFL hurts the NCAA. And in that case, I guess I’m rooting for Newton.

I’m all about seeing the NCAA look bad, and if Newton following in Bush’s footsteps of having a successful, wealthy career helps do that, sign me up.

If there’s anything more corrupt than the Newtons, or Reggie Bush, or Miami boosters or even head coaches who bend the rules, it’s the NCAA. The NCAA is all about making the largest profit possible above all else, and it comes off as hypocritical when they try and come down on the aforementioned offenders.

College sports at the top level is a broken system. And if it takes the success of players like Newton to help further that point and hopefully restore some sort of validity to college sports down the line, then I’m all for it.

From everything I’ve heard and seen about Cam Newton, it pains me to root for him. But if his success helps cheapen the NCAA’s product even more, well, I might look pretty good in teal and black.

Ricky Doyle, Assistant Editor, 3:20 a.m., Wednesday:

I’m going to have to take the “John Beattie Special” on this one in that I’ll be rooting for Cam if it increases the overall product on Sunday — or Monday, but let’s be real here: If the Panthers are playing on Monday night, the NFL has bigger issues.

At the same time, though, I won’t be too broken up about it if he falls flat on his face like many of the “experts” have predicted. In other words, I don’t really get too vested in players on an individual level unless there’s some compelling reason for me really liking them or really disliking them. Cam doesn’t fall in either of those two categories.

I certainly don’t condone what he did in college, but I’ve seen much worse of pro athletes (Jarvaris Crittenton, anyone?). And you’ve got to remember he’s only 22 years old, and therefore still has plenty of time to mature. I mean, I tell my family that about me on a daily basis.

As for his somewhat arrogant demeanor, well, I can’t say I blame him. If I won a national championship, won the Heisman and got drafted first overall, you can bet your tush I’d walk around like I was the cat’s pajamas.

He’ll likely always be a polarizing figure. You can already tell that with all the controversy that’s surrounded him. But, like I said, I could really take certain players or leave them. If he succeeds, so be it and good for him. If not, someone else will come along that’ll make us forget Cam Newton even existed.

Of course, if it was my laptop that he stole, you better believe I would’ve been bringing the ruckus down to Auburn.

Moral of the story: I like football — Cam Newton or no Cam Newton.

P.S. Don’t bring Gisele into this. She’s a saint.


It’s unanimous: Nobody is going to entrust Newton with guarding their electronics.

As to the bigger issue of whether we’ll be rooting for Cam Cam Bigelow to succeed in the NFL, the ruling is a resoundingly tepid “sorta.” The transgression of taking money during recruitment isn’t much of a transgression at all in the context of the millions of dollars generated by and for the NCAA, so we’re not going to condemn him for capitalizing on his gifts. Even if it does leave a bad taste in our mouths, that was college. This is the pros, where alleged sexual predators, dog murderers and genital-texters are premium clientele.

Go Cam!