Cam Newton: Oh, the Humanity!
The knashing of teeth is audible to a level that will drive the most sound-sensitive folk absolutely crazy.
The curious case of Cam Newton is reaching a zenith of self-righteousness on the eve of the SEC championship game Saturday in Atlanta where Newton will lead Auburn against the upstart Gamecocks of South Carolina.
The bulk of public opinion seems to say that Newton and Auburn should be punished because Newton knew what was happening all along and money changed hands. Or, at least, some law, bylaw, or rule must have been broken. Or, the powers at be are withholding information because Auburn is undefeated and on the doorstep of the national championship game. Or, some fanciful theory.
What’s known is that Newton’s father used a third-party to shop his son in a “pay-for-play” scheme – he used a person with financial ties to an agent to shop his son to Mississippi State. That seems enough over which to hang somebody.
The problem that seems to upset the apple cart of the folks that would like to burn somebody at the stake are the facts and the lack of facts in evidence. The solicitation was with a school that (1) rejected the proposed payment for play, and (2) Newton did not attend. Furthermore, and more importantly, there is no reported evidence that Newton’s father received any money, and there is no evidence that Newton had knowledge of the shady shenanigans.
Some like to bring up the SEC bylaws. For background, here’s the SEC bylaw raised into question:
“If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference (except such aid or assistance as such student-athlete may receive from those persons on whom the student is naturally or legally dependent for support), such student- athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career.”
SEC spokesperson Charles Bloom sent an e-mail to The Clarion-Ledger, a newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, to explain the Newton case regarding this bylaw.
“SEC Bylaw 14.01.3.2 does not apply in this situation. It only applies when there is an actual payment of an improper benefit, or an agreement (such as a handshake agreement) to pay and receive an improper benefit. The facts in this case, as we understand them, are that the student-athlete’s father, without the knowledge of the student-athlete, solicited improper payments (which were rejected) from an institution the young man did not attend, and that the institution where the young man is enrolled was not involved.”
“In the Cam Newton reinstatement case, there was not sufficient evidence available to establish he had any knowledge of his father’s actions and there was no indication he actually received any impermissible benefit. If a student-athlete does not receive tangible benefits, that is a different situation from a student-athlete or family member who receives cash, housing or other benefits or knowingly competes and is compensated as a professional athlete.”
The crusade against Newton and Auburn also likes to bring up other cases as parallels, including those of Reggie Bush, Damon Stoudamire, and A.J. Green. Bush and an assistant at USC were found to have direct knowledge about ‘extras’. It was found that Stoudamire’s father received ‘extra benefits’. And, it is known that A.J. Green received money from sales of his jerseys.
Thus, these matters seemingly do not provide the appropriate parallels to bolster the case of the masses.
It is commonplace for the public to express outrage about many things, including jury verdicts for lawsuits. The Cam Newton matter is not a lawsuit, but it is about facts, or lack thereof, in evidence, and rules. After having sat on a jury and witnessing the presentation of facts and the testing of those facts in a court of law, it is a complex process, open to argument. Laws are complicated and open to interpretation. In the end, the jury is left with the facts in evidence.
Judges and juries make mistakes, with respect to ‘the truth’, that are in part due to lack of due process, and perhaps less than acceptable quality exhibited by those formulating and presenting arguments. I wouldn’t be surprised that the SEC and the NCAA have made mistakes with respect to their investigations of potential recruiting violations and other sundry matters.
But, we – the self-appointed judge and jury for the Cam Newton matter – are left with the facts in evidence. This matter is not over – the NCAA is likely to continue its investigation of those with connections to Newton’s recruitment. But for now, there is no smoking gun, there is no demonstration that the glove fits. There is no justifiable reason to punish Newton or Auburn. For now.