Bill Plaschke: Cam Newton and the tattoo controversy
I love watching Cam Newton. I love watching his pure ability, his unfiltered excitement, the blank slate of his potential.
And I’ll admit it, I love that we can watch his football artistry without being distracted by any skin artistry. I love it that the Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner does not have any tattoos or body piercings.
That is how Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is being painted these days after he conducted an interview on the "Charlie Rose" show and noted that he had asked his No. 1 overall draft pick whether his body contained any ink or trinkets.
Newton reportedly told Richardson, "No sir, I don’t have any."
Richardson then reportedly replied, "Good. We want to keep it that way. We want to keep no tattoos, no piercings and I think you’ve got a very nice haircut."
And boom went the racially charged dynamite, critics everywhere ripping Richardson for acting like some sort of overstuffed plantation owner demanding control of the bodies of his largely African American team.
Seriously? This entire debate is as silly as that drawing on the side of Mike Tyson’s face.
Jerry Richardson is a business owner who was simply making a dress code request of his highest-profile, million-dollar employee. It happens every day in the real world; why can’t it happen in sports?
In many places, it is expected that the new vice president of finance won’t suddenly show up with a set of lips tattooed on his neck, or the new marketing manager won't suddenly put a ring through his lip. It's not about culture. It's not about restraint. It's about business.
The owner of any company has a right to monitor the appearance of his employees, and how is Jerry Richardson any different? All he’s doing here is asking Newton to refrain from altering his body in a way that the owner obviously dislikes.
He’s not ordering Newton. He’s not threatening Newton. Heck, Richardson’s team is filled with players bearing tattoos, and he’ll certainly hire players who are famous for tattoos, witness his off-season signing of tight end Jeremy Shockey.
The owner is just hoping that his clean new star will remain that way, and what’s wrong with that? When asked about the Richardson quotes, Newton reportedly shrugged and said the incident was overblown, and he’s right.
Upon being named the Panthers' opening day starting quarterback, Newton has every right to run out and get "I Love Jerry" tattooed across his chest.
And Jerry Richardson has every right to hate it.
-- Bill Plaschke
Photo: Cam Newton. Credit: Andrew Weber / U.S. Presswire