Cam Newton didn’t want to reflect on his 2019. Specifically, he didn’t want to continue to “dwell on the negativity” of what the year presented for the Panthers quarterback.
Instead, Newton wanted to focus on spreading holiday cheer and giving back at his sixth annual Santa Cam’s Surprise Sleigh event. But while he may have mostly avoided talking about the past, the future was the inevitable elephant in the room. The quarterback made five stops, along with a caravan of partners and volunteers, at the various organizations he impacted around Charlotte earlier this week.
While serving meals for about an hour during his last stop at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, Newton spoke with everyone who came to him, including a variety of NFL fans. While there hasn’t been a recent on-court performance to speak with, Newton responded to the hot topic in the room regarding his future in Carolina.
“I’m a die-hard Panthers fan,” one man said. “Me too,” Newton replied.
Another returned to Newton several times, begging him to stay.
“Don’t leave us, man. Don’t leave us,” one man asked. Newton’s answer? ” I will not do it. They have to send me off to go… For me to go, they have to get rid of me. It does not depend on me.
While 2019 may not have been a positive year for Newton, he ended it by donating more than $130,000 during an afternoon around Charlotte just days after the Panthers announced that Newton was their nominee Walter Payton Man of the Year. , the NFL award that recognizes the work of players off the field.
This year’s Santa Cam donation was the event’s largest yet, following its eighth year Thanksgiving Jam feed more than 1,300 children and families.
The day capped Newton’s charity week in Charlotte after hosting 10 patients from Levine Children’s Hospital during the Panthers game against the Seahawks, where he was also honored with the Walter Payton Award. Newton called it “disgusting” to watch the game from his suite for the first time in nine years because he wanted to play on the pitch for the kids instead.
“It was an oxymoron so to speak,” Newton said. “Doing good for the event with Levine’s Children’s Hospital, but at the same time, you wish it had been under different circumstances. You want them to watch you play. But in the end, you know your goal and it will also pass. Me, knowing and having full faith, everything will be better in the months to come.
Newton held on despite undergoing surgery on his left foot for a Lisfranc injury just over a week ago in New York. He rode around on a scooter with his foot wrapped around, weaving around and often standing on one leg for long periods of time.
He played the first two games of the year after being injured in the team’s third preseason game against the Patriots. He and the team made the decision to sit out in order to try to regain full health, then were placed on injured reserve in November. He’s missed more games this year than he’s missed all the other seasons of his career combined.
There has been widespread speculation that the Panthers could leave Newton this offseason, as the team could save $19.1 million in cap space in 2020 by letting him leave with one year remaining on his contract.
But despite the obstacle his leg brought to the event, Newton felt it was important to do things the same way he had done them in the past.
“These are the events I wanted to have, and I don’t think the same impact would have been as lasting without my presence here,” Newton said.
Newton’s afternoon started at Phillip O. Berry High School where he spoke with a group of high school student-athletes and donated $15,000 to the school’s athletic program. He answered their questions on a variety of topics, including giving advice on transitioning from high school to college and sharing what being in the NFL meant to him.
At Westerly Hills Elementary, he surprised every school staff member, from teachers to janitors to bus drivers, with $100 VISA gift cards. While donating $25,000 to UrbanPromise After-School and Summer Camp, he stopped and spent an hour with the kids in their after-school program, including hosting a very competitive game of musical chairs.
Donations of $25,000 each to the Second Harvest Food Bank and Men’s Shelter concluded the evening. The food bank also showed their support for Cam with a banner that read, “Cam, you are our Man of the Year every year.
Despite being ill and having to walk on one leg, Newton spent much of his Tuesday interacting with people from the various groups. Just be around Charlotte.
How much the nine-year veteran will be in Charlotte next year remains to be determined. Much depends on how well that foot, dangling from the end of a scooter, wrapped in a bright red sock, recovers.*
As he prepared to leave that night, he had one last chat with a Panthers fan and responded to the idea that he would just leave.
“Why would I want to do this? »
This story was originally published December 18, 2019 10:01 a.m.