- - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Rosemary Plorin, take a bow.

Shoot an imaginary bow and arrow. Take a football and use it for a jump shot over the goal post. Twerk. No, better yet — do a little Cam Newton dab.

Lord knows he isn’t doing many of those these days.

You’ve won, Rosemary — it’s your NFL now. Celebrate.

You remember Rosemary Plorin? She was the woman from Nashville who wrote a letter directed to Cam Newton published in the Charlotte Observer last year about how offended she, at the game with her 9-year-old daughter, was after watching Newton celebrate in a victory over the Tennessee Titans.

“That game happened to be my nine year old daughter’s first live NFL experience,” Plorin wrote. “She was surprised to see so many Panthers’ fans sitting in our section of the stadium; that doesn’t happen much at fourth grade football games. And she was excited we were near the end zone, so we would be close to the ‘action,’ particularly in the second half.

“Because of where we sat, we had a close up view of your conduct in the fourth quarter, “she wrote. “The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the ‘in your face’ taunting of both the Titans’ players and fans. We saw it all.

“I refuse to believe you don’t realize you are a role model. You are paid millions of dollars every week to play hard and be a leader. In the off season you’re expected to make appearances, support charities, and inspire young kids to pursue your sport and all sports. With everything the NFL has gone through in recent years, I’m confident they have advised that you are, by virtue of your position and career choice, a role model.

“And because you are a role model, your behavior brought out like behavior in the stands. Some of the Panthers fans in our section began taunting the hometown fans. Many Titans fans booed you, a few offering instructive, but not necessarily family friendly, suggestions as to how you might change your behavior…thousands of kids watch you every week. You have amazing talent and an incredible platform to be a role model for them. Unfortunately, what you modeled for them today was egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship. Is that what your coaches and mentors modeled for you, Mr. Newton.”

Her letter went viral and became a national debate. She was criticized, ridiculed and vilified by many. Here were some of the headlines:

“Cam Newton’s touchdown dance Sunday made some people uncomfortable; perhaps part of their discomfort has nothing to do with taunting.”

“Newton is putting his culture on display in a city where it’s mostly foreign.”

Well, while the media saw a white mother out of step with the culture of a young African-American football player, the NFL saw something else — a customer. Not just a customer, but a female customer. Not just a female customer, but a mother. They heard Rosemary Plorin, and they listened.

The NFL has been waging war on the behaviors that offended Plorin, with a crackdown on celebrations with penalty flags and fines. Commissioner Roger Goodell, addressing reporters last week following the owners meeting, could have been speaking directly to Plorin – and the thousands of women and mothers like her who the NFL desperately needs now.

“It comes down to balancing a lot of issues, the professional standards that we want to uphold,” Goodell said. “We do believe that our players are role models and others look at that at the youth level. So that’s important for us to hold that standard up.”

You wouldn’t know it by the way Goodell and the NFL has handled the Josh Brown domestic violence case, but the league is very sensitive to the Rosemary Plorins of the world now. They may not be very good at it, but they care — not out of compassion or courage, but for purely mercenary reasons.

The NFL is scared to death about the discussions taking place among families in their homes when news like this comes out in the most recent Atlantic:

“In the journal Radiology today, an imaging study shows that players ages 8 to 13 who have had no concussion symptoms still show changes associated with traumatic brain injury.”

Co-researcher Joel Stitzel on the results of the study:”The numbers here are pretty staggering. You have fewer than 2,000 people playing in the NFL, which gets all the media attention. But there’s actually about 2,000 kids playing for every NFL player — 3.5 million kids playing youth football in the U.S. About whom there is very, very little information.”

The league is fighting a cultural war on numerous fronts, and they are scared. So when a Nashville mother is offended by what she sees at an NFL game, they pay attention. The NFL needs the Rosemary Plorins.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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