Cam Newton defied the laws of physics in an Atlanta brawl at a youth football tournament

OPINION: There were no serious injuries, but participants should commit to do better and not be bad role models.

Cam Newton,
Cam Newton attends Fearless Fund Third Annual Fearless Venture Capital Summit at Atlanta Symphony Hall on August 18, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images) Credit: Photo byParas Griffin / Getty Images

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Another youth sports event, another brawl amongst adults.

At least shots weren’t fired, which isn’t always said when similar scenes unfold around the country. Thankfully, it appears no one was seriously hurt Sunday during an incident that went viral. But the fight between former NFL star Cam Newton and a couple of football coaches at a 7-on-7 tournament in Atlanta was nonetheless disturbing, raising a series of questions.

Why were they beefing? Who got physical first? Where was security? 

And the big one: How did Newton’s hat stay on the whole time?

Sometimes we laugh to keep from crying and joke to keep from worrying. 

I know violence is a serious matter. Too many videos show melees that lead to mourning, moments that escalate from wordplay to gunplay, perhaps with punches in between. There’s nothing funny about that.

But this wasn’t that. 

This was Newton giving cartoon vibes, holding one dude in a headlock while rag-dolling another one. It was an episode from pro wrestling where partners double-team a guy while the ref looks away. But this script had Newton whupping both foes, leaving them grateful once onlookers broke it up.

And his freaking feathered hat never moved.

The 2015 MVP is not only an eccentric dresser but also roughly 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. He appears nearly as big in clothes as he was in pads when he somehow made comparably sized players look smaller. We don’t know why brothers TJ and Steph Brown fought Newton, but we understand thinking it’d take two to make the thing go right.


According to numerous reports, the brothers knew because they worked for Newton’s C1N group and remained cordial after leaving to start TopShelf Performance in 2022. The Browns claim that Newton started Sunday’s incident, with emotions still simmering from trash-talking on Saturday when TopShelf beat C1N in the tournament.

“The entire incident is profoundly disheartening,” TopShelf said Tuesday in a statement to USA Today. “We aspire to serve as exemplars both on and off the field, dedicated to cultivating a community that prioritizes the safety of our athletes and their families.” 

TopShelf released another statement on Instagram, apologizing “for our actions and getting beyond our character. We are deeply concerned about the recent incident involving Cam Newton, and our thoughts are with all parties affected. Violence has no place in our community, and we strongly condemn any form of aggression.”

Maybe it’s me, but that’s what we hear following mass shootings and other terrible acts. 

The guilty adults aren’t always coaches and supposed role models, but their actions always reverberate through news and social media that reach younger generations. In the worst cases, formerly anonymous perpetrators stamp their names in history by acting out at a school or a church, a nightclub or a concert, or any other space where people gather. 

The threat of violence is everywhere in our open society, whether it’s fists or bullets that start flying. Like all teenagers, players on C1N and TopShelf know the drill: run toward a fight and start recording or run away from a gun and start ducking. Young athletes might not expect a disturbance between coaches, but it’s not the wildest thing. 

Newton’s profile as a decorated collegiate and professional star makes the story grand, in line with the clothes, dancing and outsized personality he expressed while leading Carolina to the Super Bowl in 2016. 

Put a nameless former player in an identical incident and it barely registers. Violence at youth sporting events is real, but we’d be done talking about an insignificant player’s fracas that resulted in no serious injuries. Not so with Newton, who’s accustomed to swirling in controversies that include sexist comments about women and his views on other quarterbacks.  

ESPN spent a morning in December roasting Newton’s attire and quarterback ratings, providing a boost for his “Funky Friday Podcast,” now up to 1.3 million followers. I suppose he’ll talk about the brouhaha during his next episode, withholding comment until then in a strategic business move. Based on his track record, there’s no telling what’s coming but it could go left for sure.

The right choice of words is obvious, a message like TopShelf issued, showing remorse for the fight, apologizing for being a bad example and committing to learn, grow and do better. His people can whip that out in no time and save the template for later.

Meanwhile, we’ll sit back and eat our popcorn, scrolling social media and the TV remote. We’ll attend events, watch games and go about our daily lives until violence happens and news breaks. It could be the next minute or next week, but it’s coming.

And no matter the story, here’s a pretty safe bet:

A hat will move more than Newton’s hat on Sunday.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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