When Cam Newton joined Auburn it appeared to be a feel good story of redemption. Newton straightened out his life and was about to boost Auburn’s game to the next level. It appeared that he had overcome his problematic past, which resulted in his 2008 departure from Florida on the heels of a host of criminal charges including burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice.
The “new and improved” Cam Newton appeared to have moved beyond that time in his life and returned to the simple joy of winning football. His team was dominating and he was in contention for the Heisman Trophy. Things looked great for Cam Newton, but as the old adage goes, sometimes looks may be deceiving.
In light of recent allegations – that Newton actually fled Florida to avoid expulsion for multiple charges of academic cheating, the public perception of Cam Newton and Auburn is in doubt. This debate explored the question: Should the uncertainty surrounding Cam Newton’s eligibility impact Heisman Trophy voters and Auburn’s perception as a clean program?
Bleacher Fan’s argument provided a thorough rundown of Newton’s rap sheet and the allegations against him. His attempts to portray Newton as a player amidst dubious circumstances with a reasonably suspicious looking motive to get out of Florida were highly successful. There is little doubt that a burgeoning star like Newton, who wants to keep the hopes of an NFL career alive, would gladly welcome the diversion of an arrest as motivation to leave Florida rather than an expulsion, which would impact his NCAA eligibility.
In that respect, Bleacher Fan built a strong “where there’s smoke there’s fire argument” that would lead a rational person to believe that Cam Newton and Auburn, Alabama are burning.
But Sport’s Geek’s counterargument seemed tailor-made to take on such an attack. His focus on how the American government and culture is dedicated to an “innocent until proven guilty” belief system, which leaves room for the possibility of Cam Newton’s innocence. Sports Geek cited the Reggie Bush Heisman disaster as a precedent for increased cynicism in American sports, but he maintains his powerful and persuasive stance that it is still not cause to scrap the system or overlook an individual’s civil rights, not to mention handing out a guilty label that is likely to permanently brand and tarnish a player’s career and legacy.
One might assume that the Sports Geek’s argument was inferior because of its failure to provide any evidence to that would prove Newton’s innocence, but again that is really what is at the heart of this debate. When considering this point I realized that there was really a smaller debate within this debate – do the accused have a responsibility to prove their innocence.
Based off of the arguments in Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s arguments, I believe they do not.
Bleacher Fan lost some serious ground when he made the claim… “While I [Bleacher Fan] completely agree that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it is important to note that these charges have also not been proven false.”
Not been proven false!? I honestly felt uncomfortable with this claim, which borders dangerously close on McCarthyism.
As a baseball man, I know all too well that once the sticky moniker of steroid user is thrown out there it is virtually impossible to overcome. As Roger Clemens reiterated time and time again, “How do you prove a negative?” He’s got a point. How do you prove you aren’t a steroid user, or a point shaver, or a college kid accused of academic misconduct?
The nice thing, in this country, is that the accused don’t shoulder this burden. Sports Geek remembered that and kept that simple, but undeniable truth at the forefront of this debate. While it may very well be proven that Newton is indeed involved with dirty deeds, we have to assume he is not until concrete evidence is provided to the contrary. Bleacher Fan asserted that awards such as the Heisman Trophy have a duty to take actions to uphold their integrity. He is absolutely correct, but that duty does not supersede a player’s basic rights as American citizens (Chinese National Soccer Team, you are on your own). For that reason, I’m awarding this victory to Sports Geek.
Enjoy it my friend, your argument would make our Forefathers proud… while comrade Bleacher Fan… now that’s a different story.