The city of Boston and its sports fans have historically caught a lot of flack for overstepping certain racial boundaries when it comes to its Black athletes in MLB, NHL even the NBA.
Despite its reputation, the city also has Bill Belichick to thank for always going against the grain and often ignoring narratives that tend to hinder the progress or reputation of certain Black athletes.
Over the past two decades, the Patriots have taken the baton from the Raiders as the second-chance franchise for the disenfranchised. They’ve also adopted Vince Lombardi’s old motto: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing
The signing of Cam Newton was a no-brainer for the Patriots, who lost Tom Brady to free agency and were relying on Jared Stidham to lead the squad into a new era after winning six Super Bowls with the Killer B’s connection of Brady and Belichick.
Here's what Bill Belichick said about Cam Newton in 2017: pic.twitter.com/VeixKSakaJ
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) June 29, 2020
It’s a damn shame that it took so long for the former MVP and Super Bowl quarterback to be signed by a team, but Belichick was never one to let optics or potential fan backlash deter him from the opportunity to win another ring.
Media criticisms of Cam Newton focused on his recent injury history and his attitude. The “attitude” is a common attack on flamboyant Black players who have lightning rod personalities in which they express extreme confidence and flair on and off the field. It was an excuse that several squads and their fans — who were in desperate need of a seasoned quarterback — used to ignore the former MVP and sign less talented quarterbacks.
He’s always doing whatever the hell he wants to do, regardless of how the other 31 franchises decide to play it.
The recent $1.1 million fine the team received for Spygate 2.0 supports that. Belichick has always been gangster in the way he conducts business and more times than none his questionable tactics and personnel moves and the players he’s taken in — especially the ones who were seen as problematic or washed up in some way — tend to pay huge dividends for his legacy at some point.
Most of them, like the Newton signing, were common-sense moves that other franchises just didn’t have the balls to make. Too concerned with the fan backlash and media opinion– and for some — even the racial optics.
Belichick signed Randy Moss at a time when the Hall of Famer was considered a headache and probably on the downside of a great career. Dollar Bill brought Moss in and some media pundits criticized the move. Said he wasn’t a “Patriots” kind of player.
Moss was on his best behavior, helped Tom Brady break all kinds of records, and was part of a squad that went 18-0 before falling to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Remember James Harrison? The 6-foot assassin with the roughneck business, who was signed by Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2002, parlayed a lion’s heart into five Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowl rings. Harrison contemplated retiring after the 2013 season but returned to ball with the Steelers for a couple more seasons before they unceremoniously released him in December of 2017.
The Steelers’ loss was the Patriots’ gain as Belichick once again displayed his brilliance in scooping up the Pittsburgh legend as a reinforcement for a final Super Bowl run. Harrison performed great in the playoffs and helped the Pats get back to the SuperBowl for the 8th time, where they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Pats signed Antonio Brown when nobody wanted him. While Brown could still produce, he was burning bridges all across the league with his erratic behavior, criticisms of teammates and the Steelers franchise and his overall unwillingness to remove the “I’ from the team. On the surface, he seems to be a player that didn’t fit into the Patriots’ “system” and team-first philosophy.
Belichick, however, didn’t waste any time bringing the talented receiver in because he knew Brown’s productivity would help extend Tom Brady’s career and make the squad better.
Model Franchise…With Warts
The public deems a model franchise as a team that has stability at QB and the head coach position, wins rings, does things on the up and up, and has players who reflect the brilliance of the game on and off the field.
During Brady’s tenure with the squad, the Pats have been the flagship franchise in the NFL, representing many of the characteristics previously mentioned.
When we take a closer look, we find that a win-at-all-costs attitude is really their driving force. Contrary to popular belief, setting a good example for the NFL isn’t a top priority. It just so happens, that the perception that you are doing so comes with the winning.
People often mistake winning with having class. The Patriots continue to capitalize on that misconception. The Pats were considered a rare dynasty during the team’s first Super Bowl runs from 2001-2004, and they continued to go to Super Bowls — and overcome scandals– winning their last title in 2018.
Taking Chances On “At-Risk” Talent
But cloaked within the accolades, is an obsessive attitude that makes the Pats organization far from a group of choirboys. In fact, the Pats have rolled the dice on more “at-risk” and discarded players than most teams, in an attempt to keep that dynasty alive.
Bringing in the talented and troubled Aqib Talib at the NFL’s trading deadline back in 2012 was a move that over years became known as a typical Belichick bailout. New England uses its aura of invincibility as a shield for any public criticism that might arise from picking up these players. This makes it easy for Belichick to nab players that other teams – who don’t have the same cache with the league and its fan base – can’t pursue.
Belichick’s reputation for having an iron-clad locker room and real player accountability, allows him to handpick the best of the delinquents, and try capturing lightning in a bottle.
He also doesn’t get caught up in the personal criticisms of players that the media often uses to discredit their potential on the field. That train of thought is what kept Cam Newton unemployed for so long.
They said the same thing about Randy Moss, and Corey Dillion. They both worked out well in the Patriots System.
— Terry O'Neill (@terryo_neill) June 29, 2020
Unlike some of the Pats’ past projects, Talib was in his prime. The trade wasn’t a desperate grab like Chad Johnson or Albert Haynesworth. But in true Pats fashion, it’s obnoxiously ballsy. Johnson and Haynesworth were 2011 additions to the Pats that didn’t materialize. Johnson didn’t have the skills, and Haynesworth was plain lazy and difficult. But Bill risked it when others wouldn’t.
Risky additions like Cory Dillon and Moss paid dividends. Both players became integral parts of successful teams. Either way, Belichick enjoys the luxury of never having to catch heat for a failed move.
The AB scenario was another bold move that didn’t pan out, proving that not every move Belichick makes is full proof. But he had the audacity to make these moves when no one else would. He has that Teflon Don persona, and until the Patriots stop putting up numbers and going to the Super Bowl, no one is going to question his gangster.
Remember when Belichick basically removed Wes Welker from the offense for making a stink about his contract? If you do anything to disrupt the winning culture in New England, you will be buried. If you can help, you’ll be resurrected by Lord Belichick himself.
Just ask Cam.
Dillon was probably Belichick’s biggest PR risk back in ’03, with the Pats coming off two Super Bowls. Dillon had a bad rep and people look to his success with the Pats as proof of Belichick’s ability to make troubled players buy into the “Patriots Way.”
In 2012, cornerback Aqib Talib was Belichick’s most gangstafied, risky-recruit at the time. Talib was coming off a four-game suspension for using Adderall and was known as somewhat of a wild cowboy. Not long after he was drafted, he was slugging it out with teammate Cory Boyd at the 2008 rookie symposium. He was bagged for resisting arrest without violence and simple battery after an alleged incident with a taxi driver. That event led to his first NFL suspension, for violating the league’s conduct policy. Before joining the Pats, Talib also had charges dropped for allegedly pistol-whipping and shooting his sister’s boo.
Most teams wouldn’t touch him. The Pats, whose pass defense was ranked 28th in the NFL at the time, couldn’t survive without him. At the end of the day, Big Bill knew he could cut Talib loose if he acted a fool, or sign him to an extension if he proved his weight in gold.
Moves like this, coupled with other league scandals and mistreatment of players during contract negotiations, have sullied the public’s pure perception of Belichick over the years but hasn’t changed anyone’s perception about his superiority at executing his craft. It’s clear, he rocks that hoodie for a reason. On the low, he is devilishly good at being cutthroat and has no problem with slumming, if it means winning.
Bill’s Not Scared Of Black Quarterbacks In Boston
Cam’s history isn’t littered with off the field transgressions, but his reputation as a personality that’s hard to contain, scared off some teams who don’t have the cache to risk bringing him in.
Black quarterbacks have come a long way in this league, with 2019 actually being named “The Year of the Black Quarterback.” Patrick Mahomes won the Super Bowl, Lamar Jackson won the MVP and the Pro Bowl was deep with more Black quarterback talent than ever before.
Despite the progress, Pro Bowl-caliber signal callers like Jameis Winston and Cam were devalued and disrespected across the board. Neither are backups, but NFL teams were unwilling to sign these guys. Winston, just 25, has all-time passing numbers already, but Tampa dumped him for a 42-year-old Brady. The Colts brought in perennial playoff egg-layer Phillip Rivers and gave up on a 27-year-old Jacoby Brissette.
Don't hate the player (Bill Belichick), hate the game the NFL routinely plays with gifted Black quarterbacks who find themselves on the open market https://t.co/eCKMzhbUX7
— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) June 29, 2020
The Panthers brought in Teddy Bridgewater who hasn’t started since Obama was president to replace a “healthy” Newton, who had spent nine years of his career risking his body and his mentals for the franchise and bringing them glory and visibility it will never be able to duplicate.
There are many reasons why these players were treated as less than. Cam sat at home frustrated and determined as bootleg quarterbacks were signed ahead for him.
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Cam Newton said the Carolina Panthers, “They gave up on me” He passed his physical and is waiting for some team to get the steal of the offseason. You can see the pain in his eyes and the motivation as well. He deserved a better ending with Carolina but his story isn’t finished by a long shot (via @cameron1newton) #camnewtoncomeback #theygaveuponme #whowantscamnewton
For months we had been saying that Cam is the perfect fit for Belichick in New England. It was either that or have a 6-10 season with Jarrett Stidham at the helm. When the smoke clears, people will credit Belichick for being a genius.
Memo: Signing Cam did NOT take genius on his part, especially considering the Patriots’ other options.
It was however indicative of the way that Belichick refuses to get caught up in the nonsense; racial profiling or the intolerance for spirited and passionate Black players, the historical double standard used to judge Black players with some baggage.
All he wants to do is win and that’s why he does.