There's no shortage of big sports news this week.
Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has a one-year signed deal. NASCAR’s only full-time, top-level African American driver, Bubba Wallace, is becoming the face of the sport as another racial incident occurs involving him, and ACC Commissioner John Swofford is retiring. Langston Wertz Jr., a veteran sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer, joins us to talk about these topics and more for Time Out For Sports.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi, Langston.
Langston Wertz Jr.: Hi, Gwen. How are you?
Glenn: I'm great. Well, let's start with that big news about Cam Newton. What's going on there?
Wertz: Well, (Sunday) night, news started coming out that Cam Newton signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots, going to a Super Bowl contender to play for one of the best coaches in NFL history.
Glenn: So, I've been listening to some of the sports shows, and it seems like you have those who are saying that's a great pick and those who are saying he's washed up. What are you hearing?
Wertz: I saw and heard a lot of players really be celebratory about Cam. The biggest thing ... was people seemed to be down on the contract. He signed for the minimum, so they feel like, you know, he's a Hall of Fame quarterback, a former MVP, a guy who's literally carried a franchise to the Super Bowl that was kind of signing like a guy off the street. And I think Cam really wants to play football. I think he's determined. You know, if he's healthy, playing for Bill Belichick in that system, he could do really good things. At 31 years old, he's kind of at the point where most quarterbacks enter their primes, so New England could be getting really lucky in his one-year deal.
Glenn: And what about the protection that he needs? That's what a lot of people I've always heard saying that he has been injured over his career because he didn't have the protection that he needs and also that there was this idea among some refs that he's a big man, he can take the hits. Do you think he'll get that protection?
Wertz: Yeah, Tom Brady was very well protected in New England. I think this is going to probably be one of the better situations Cam will go in in that regard.
Glenn: Let's be real. A lot of people have said that he's a Black quarterback and Brady, you know, white quarterback. People felt that he had, especially from refs, more protection. Do you think Cam is going to get the protection?
Wertz: No, I don't think Cam is going to get the benefit of the doubt that Tom Brady gets. I think, you know, Cam has been seen as a running quarterback. There's always that thing when he starts to run he's still a quarterback. But I think in the pocket, he did not get the benefit of the doubt that many quarterbacks get, and I think because he's 6 foot 5, 250 pounds and looks like Superman has something to do with it. You know, hopefully, some of the NFL players won't be hitting on him like they did, particularly on that Monday night game after Super Bowl year in Denver. That was one of the ugliest games I've ever seen.
Glenn: OK, well, let's move to Bubba Wallace since last week. Tell us about the conclusion of the FBI investigation into the noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage in Talladega.
Wertz: They definitely found a noose. They released a photo of the noose. They said there was 11 of those, and more than 1,600 stalls that had pull-down ropes. But those other 10 were tied in a knot. There was just one stall -- the one that Wallace was using -- that had a rope fashioned like a noose. But the investigation showed that that noose had been in place since October.
Glenn: OK. And they said that those ropes are used for a garage pull doors. And here's NASCAR President Steve Phelps:
Steve Phelps (recording): Moving forward, we'll be conducting thorough sweeps of the garage area to ensure nothing like this happens again, and we are installing additional cameras in all of our garages.
Glenn: And Langston, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at races and other official events after Bubba Wallace called for it to be prohibited, which upset a lot of people. And on Facebook this week, there was a racist item up for sale. Tell us about that.
Wertz: Yeah, the owner of the 311 Speedway in Stokes County ... wrote there was supposed to be a replica, I suppose, of Bubba Wallace's noose for sale for $9.99, and he said it comes with a lifetime warranty and worked great. The ad was taken down the same day, and the owner has lost some races, and he's lost some sponsorships on top of it.
Glenn: Well, also this week, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who grew up near Florence, South Carolina and graduated from South Carolina State University, was in the news over a racial incident. What was that about?
Wertz: He was at Chipotle with his friends, and he said a white customer told a manager that Leonard and his friends were being disrespectful to this other customer. The manager came over and threatened to call the police, and Leonard and his group left, and Leonard said the man who made the complaint was laughing at him and his group as they left. Chipotle apologized to him, and they also suspended the manager while they investigate.
Glenn: OK, and looking at college football, officials at Morehouse College in Atlanta and Florida Tech in Melbourne say they won't have football this year due to the coronavirus. And Clemson University has nearly 40 players to test positive. What does this mean for college or high school football, even here?
Wertz: Well, I'll tell you what, it's a big deal. I mean, you know, college football made $9 billion in 2018. Schools can't or don't want to lose out on that type of cash. I think definitely people are getting nervous. There's talk about moving football even to the spring.
Glenn: Yeah, and at the same time, the NFL and the NBA are looking to have seasons. The Hornets won't be playing. Their record wasn't good enough. But what moves are the Panthers making at this point?
Wertz: Well, the Panthers are just getting ready to begin training camp on the 28th in Charlotte. You know, I've heard them talk about maybe quarantining the quarterbacks so all of them don't catch the virus at the same time.
Glenn: Well, getting back to social justice, there is a local high school athlete who is refusing to play unless changes are made at his school. Tell us about that.
Wertz: Yeah, Evan Pryor, who's a running back at Hough High School. He's committed to Ohio State, top 10 recruit in the state of North Carolina, top 100 recruit nationally. He saw a racist post that was put on Twitter by two of his classmates. His response to that was, I'm tired of seeing these things at Hough and he wants to see change. He met with his athletic director and his principal, and they both agreed with him. He wants to see like in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension for students to do these sorts of things.
Glenn: And next year, ACC Commissioner John Swofford, a former athletic director at UNC Chapel Hill, will retire. What do you see as his biggest accomplishment, his legacy after, what will be 25 years?
Wertz: One of the biggest ones is leading the expansion from nine to 15 teams. ACC teams have won 92 national championships in 19 different sports under his watch. And I think, you know, launching the ACC network was a really big deal that, you know, they have a home to show their sports. Then off the court, he started the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he helped launch the community outreach program. He's definitely gonna be missed.
Glenn: And to end on a lighter note, Truist Field and the Charlotte Knights are adding comedy to the field on July 2 with Sid Davis. Here he is:.
Sid Davis (recording): I was in Goodwill, right? I wanted to buy a neon safety vest, so when I change a tire on the side of the road, people will notice me and stop. And I bought one at Goodwill for a dollar. My wife shows me the vest and says, "Did you look at the back of the letters that say inmate? What do you see a policeman?" I'm like, "I'll just start picking up trash."
Wertz: Oh, I think that's really cool to get a chance to get a little comedy socially distanced in a safe environment. I think it's great.
Glenn: OK, well, Langston, thanks for being with us for Time Out For Sports.