Cam Newton’s bizarre request from Panthers

The past year has been an eventful one for Cam Newton.  The former Auburn quarterback played his final collegiate season under a cloud of scrutiny, thanks to allegations that his father, Cecil sought money from Mississippi State University while his son was being recruited by major schools.

The NCAA later found that Cam and Auburn had no knowledge of Cecil’s actions, and Cam then went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead the Tigers to the BCS National Championship in a 22-19 thriller over Oregon.  Newton was picked No. 1 overall in April’s NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers, who then signed him to a four year, $22 million contract.

But the oddest moment for Newtown came on Tuesday when his new boss, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, made some interesting comments while appearing with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on The Charlie Rose Show.

In addition to talking about the recent lockout and TV blackouts, Richardson recounted a pre-draft conversation he had with Newton when he asked his future quarterback if he had any tattoos or piercings.  After Newton said that he had neither, Richardson responded, “We want to keep it that way, no tattoos, no piercings, and I think you’ve got a very nice haircut.”

Seriously! I’ve heard some off-the-wall interview questions in my day, but this is a head-scratcher.

This raises the never-ending issue about employees’ appearance and what employers can or can’t mandate.  Now I happen to be body art-free, but I have no problem with tattoos or piercings.  In fact, many people I know and love have both.  But at the same time, I realize that some employers can dictate personal appearance and dress.  For instance, I have to wear a tie to work four days a week.  I’m more of a business casual kind of guy, but them’s the rules.  And I’m fully aware that employers “subtly” make judgments and assessments of people based upon their appearance in an interview – be it gray hair, their weight or tattoos.

Is it right?  No, but it’s a fact of life.

But what makes Richardson’s statements more of a head-scratcher is that he employs plenty of players on his team who have multiple, visible tattoos, including star WR Steve Smith and RB DeAngelo Williams.  And it’s not as if he’s instituted a team-wide policy on body art like the one the late George Steinbrenner had for restricting long hair and excess facial hair for ALL Yankees players and employees.

Could it be that Richardson thinks that the face of his franchise should have a “clean-cut” image?  That his starting quarterback must be intelligent and have good judgment, and that having body art is a sign of neither?  Maybe so.

I know, Richardson is paying Newton millions of dollars, and it’s his right to weigh in.  But the whole thing seems a little hypocritical given the fact that he’s singling out one player – especially since this seems more for marketing and PR reasons.  Unless Newton is becoming a swimsuit model, I don’t see why this is such an issue.

So if you ever get a tattoo, don’t make it the Mike Tyson facial variety.  It’s probably best just to keep it hidden from the likes of bosses like Richardson.

BTW, you can play on my fantasy football team anytime, Cam Newton − body art or not; provided you put up good numbers, of course…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

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