Cam Newton: I’m an African American QB that may scare people

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —¬†Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suggested for the first time Wednesday that race may play a factor in why he’s become a lightning rod for public criticism.

“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” said the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton.

The No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft out of Auburn, Newton has his share of detractors who either don’t like how he plays, his celebrations or his abundance of self-confidence.

Newton, a leading league MVP candidate who is putting up record-breaking numbers, said he learned a long time ago that he can’t please everyone, and needs to be true to his personality.

“People are going to judge, and have opinions on things I don’t have control over,” Newton said.

The stout and speedy Newton is beating teams with his arm and his legs, throwing for 35 touchdowns and running for 10 this season. He has helped lead the Panthers (17-1) to their first Super Bowl since 2003. Carolina plays the AFC champion Denver Broncos on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

Newton acknowledged being leery of talking about how others may perceive him.

“I think it’s a trick question,” Newton said. “If I answer it truthfully it’s going to be `Aw, he’s this or that.’ But I will say it anyway.

“I don’t think people have seen what I am or what I’m trying to do.”

Newton said he hasn’t change, and has previously responded to his critics.

“I said that prior to me being in this situation,” Newton said of being understood. “But when I said it then it was like, `Oh he is immature,’ or, `Oh he’s young and this that and the third.’ I felt a certain type of way then and I feel a certain type of way now – nothing has pretty much changed. They talk about maturity. They talk about skillset. … The only thing that has changed (about me) is that we’re winning now.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t believe Newton should have to fight perceptions about race.

“I think he has always strived to have that separation,” Rivera said. “I don’t think he wants to be known as an African-American quarterback; he wants to be known as a quarterback. I think that is what drives him, to be able to transcend those boundaries, which I think is great.”

Rivera, who is Hispanic, said he has battled that notion to some degree himself.

“It really should be about your merits more than anything else,” Rivera said. “More about what you have accomplished, what you have done. I think that is how we should judge people.”

Rivera said some people may simply not like Newton because of his personality.

The All-Pro quarterback plays the game with open enthusiasm, pointing his arms forward after running for a first down, doing the “dab” in the end zone and pretending to rip open his shirt like Superman. He gets his teammates to pose for pictures on the sideline near the end of games when the outcome is no longer in doubt.

None of that bothers Rivera, who said Newton needs to remain true to himself.

“I think some people believe you should be stoic when you play this game,” Rivera said. “But a lot of people disagree and think you should have fun. This is a kid’s game. I know there is a lot of money involved, but at the end of the day it’s about entertainment. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, don’t play the game -it’s that simple.”

Don Ohlmeyer, longtime network TV executive, dies at 72

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Don Ohlmeyer, the “Monday Night Football” producer who came up with the phrase “Must See TV” in leading NBC to the No. 1 prime-time spot, died Sunday. He was 72.

“It is with heavy hearts we share that Don Ohlmeyer, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, has passed away at age of 72 due to cancer,” Ohlmeyer’s family said in a statement. “Surrounded by loved ones, he died peacefully at his home in Indian Wells.”

Longtime friend Al Michaels announced Ohlmeyer’s death while broadcasting NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Ohlmeyer won 16 Emmys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Peabody Awards.

Ohlmeyer became producer of “MNF” in 1972, teaming with director Chet Forte and the on-air crew of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. In 2000 in his second “MNF” stint, Ohlmeyer put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth.

Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports as a gofer while studying at Notre Dame and became a full-time production assistant in 1967 under Roone Arledge, working on “Wide World of Sports.” Along with his “Monday Night Football” work, he directed the network’s Olympic coverage and created “The Superstars.” Later at NBC Sports, he produced World Series and Super Bowl broadcasts.

After running his own Ohlmeyer Communications Company, he returned to NBC in 1993 as president of its entertainment division. He came up with “Must See TV” in the 1990s, when NBC’s rating soared with such hits as “Seinfeld,” ”Friends,” ”ER” and “Frasier.”

Watch Live: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys on NBC

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The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in a battle of NFC East rivals on Sunday Night Football.

Despite going 13-3 and earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year, the Cowboys lost twice to the Giants in 2016, including a loss in Week 1. Dallas hopes to not have a repeat of last year and will rely on sophomores Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to carry the load. Don’t be surprised if Elliott gets even more carries in this game because there is a possibility his six-game suspension is upheld and he will have plenty of time to rest up before he sees game action again.

The Giants will rely on their strong defense led by DB Landon Collins and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to try and get after Prescott and bottle up Elliott. On offense, New York is all about Eli Manning and the passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to suit up, but it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have after injuring his ankle in the preseason. As a result, look for new additions WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, to go along with sophomore WR Sterling Shepard to step up for Manning.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Giants vs. Cowboys

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app