A teenager apologized early Monday for heckling Cam Newton at a youth football tournament after video of the incident went viral, drawing condemnation from current and former NFL players and prompting Newton to take the high road with a social media post that emphasized his commitment to helping young athletes.
The incident occurred as Newton was on a sideline with some of his players, whose shirts bore the phrase “Bless the babies,” and a member of another team yelled at the New England Patriots quarterback that he was “a free agent.”
When Newton, who has earned more than $120 million just in NFL salaries, retorted, “I’m rich,” the youngster shot back, “You’re about to be poor!”
Newton, 31, then began to ask if he could speak to the boy’s father.
“Any young athlete watching this video please don’t be this kid,” tweeted running back Leonard Fournette, fresh off helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl. “Don’t miss your chance to learn something from someone who has been their at the highest level in this sport. … STAY HUMBLE.”
In a lengthy tweet directed to Newton and media outlets and posted shortly after midnight Monday, the youngster apologized and said the situation got out of hand.
“First & foremost, I want to express my deepest apologies to Cam Newton, my entire org & my coaches for my actions at the 7v7 tournament this past weekend,” Jseth Owens wrote. “I did not intend for it to get as far as it did! First, I would like to start off by saying my parents never taught me to [treat] people disrespectful.
“As a football player I let my competitive side get the best of me & it was a huge miscommunication. It was in the midst of the moment & I realize now how a lot of you took it as disrespect. I never meant to humiliate & let anyone down,” the aspiring football player at Perkiomen Valley in Pennsylvania, continued. “I am very appreciative for 7v7 to even allow me to be a part of the community & allowing me to be a part of the team I am currently on. I realize this can dictate my future as a young man having very big dreams/goals, but I will not allow this to stop me from getting where I need to be. So again, I apologize & hope I can be forgiven.”
In an Instagram post Sunday, in which he shared further video of the back-and-forth, Newton wrote, “To me, talking to a ‘child’ with everyone looking does me NO good!! So instead of speaking or going back and forth with a CHILD I wanted to have a man to man conversation with his father!!”
He added, “As athletes that are often seen on TV, loved by most hated by some, people often forget we are real DADs, real FRIENDS, real BROTHERS, real SONS, REAL HUMAN BEINGS.”
Many NFL players who discussed the video online claimed that the former NFL MVP reacted much more calmly and maturely than they would have.
“To all the parents that bring their kids to fun camps, you let your son step into the box talking trash, there are no more age limits we will handle this like men,” tweeted former running back Reggie Bush, now a Fox Sports analyst.
“Cam handled that situation better than me,” former wide receiver Torrey Smith said on Twitter. “I’m pretty level headed but when it’s time to get petty I can take it to the floor.”
More than a few of Newton’s contemporaries expressed amazement and dismay that a child would choose to mock an athlete with Newton’s level of accomplishment.
“This is crazy,” tweeted Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Compton. “A Heisman winner, an NFL MVP, & a 10 year pro hosting a football camp, and instead of really trying to get something out of it — you clout chase for some weird attention. Kid should be kicked out and grounded indefinitely.”
“Man I wish I had NFL players at my 7 on 7. Let alone a player as elite as Cam Newton,” Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling said on Twitter. “Reality check, You got a guy who has reached every mile stone that we dreamed of as kids. You supposed to be picking his brain, being a sponge. Not a annoying fly that caused no damage to him.”
“He tried to be funny in front of his friends instead of asking a great like Cam, how to overcome adversity and be an MVP of a league that you have 1% chance of making,” said Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons.
These lil dudes Ain got no respect that shiii don’t make u look like a G u look dumb— Mark Ingram II (@markingram21) February 21, 2021
Newton joined the Patriots last year after nine years with the Carolina Panthers, who made Newton the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and were rewarded with a Super Bowl appearance and three Pro Bowl seasons, as well as the 2015 MVP campaign. In addition to winning the 2010 Heisman Trophy while at Auburn, Newton led the Tigers to a national championship that year.
Given a tall order in New England by having to replace Tom Brady while coming off foot surgery, Newton got off to a fine start when he averaged 7.30 adjusted yards per attempt with an 89.7 passer rating through the Patriots’ first three games. However, he then contracted the coronavirus, missed a game and saw his performance drop. Through the Patriots’ final 12 games, he averaged 6.15 adjusted yards per attempt with an 80.6 rating as the team finished with a 7-9 record. New England, which signed Newton to a one-year deal, could still try to bring him back, but it was reported in January that the Patriots are expected to part ways with him.
To Washington Football Team President Jason Wright, a 38-year-old former NFL running back, the video reflected the “inevitable byproduct of the [expletive] way we allow ourselves to treat each other on social media combined w/ a view of athletes as commodities to be traded and dealt dispassionately.”
To Newton, the whole point of his involvement with the C1N teams, based out of his hometown of Atlanta, is to help teens use their football talent to “get them to the next level and in most cases … OUT OF THE HOOD.”
In a January post, the C1N program pointed out that participants over the previous nine years included Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup, New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Noting Sunday on Instagram that he has given “my time, my energy and my expertise to these kids coming into our program for over 11 years,” Newton asserted, “The truth is, I impact kids’ lives in a positive way.”