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Warren Moon can’t understand what Cam Newton’s critics see

Cam Newton, Warren Moon

NFL draft prospect Cam Newton shares a laugh with former NFL quarterback Warren Moon, right, during a football workout Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Chris Park)


Since opening the door to the conversation about race and football last week, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has tried to make the topic less divisive and more about the fact he defies categorization.

But one of Newton’s earliest mentors, who knows about the realities of the topic, is willing to burst through the door.

Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon told Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports that he didn’t understand what people had to criticize about Newton, if they weren’t leaning back on more sinister motives.

“That’s the thing I don’t understand. How come they just can’t let it go?” Moon said of Newton’s critics. “If he hasn’t done anything [recently] that’s been against the law or anything that would cause negative publicity, isn’t out in the world doing something wrong except for just dancing after a touchdown, I mean what is the big deal? He’s worked toward maturity in the last five or six years he’s been in the league and has done positive things to erase a lot of that negative stuff from when he was 18, 19 years old. I just don’t know why people can’t let all of that stuff go.

You’d think he raped like five pastors’ daughters over the last five years and he’s getting away with it the way people are talking about him.”

That’s the kind of strong talk — and uncomfortable imagery — that Newton will want to avoid tonight, when he’s on center stage at the league’s first prime time media day spectacle.

While there’s inarguably a segment of the population who may view Newton through the prism of race, he’s also a player who defies characterization at a number of levels. Between his athletic success and his non-traditional style and his gargantuan personality, he’s naturally become a lightning rod, fodder for a thousand #hottaeks.

And as long as he’s in the spotlight, it’s going to create strong feelings on either side. Moon knows that, and his willingness to speak in such blunt terms also underscores his own years of struggle.