As the Olympic Games continue in Rio, we have to admit that we have seen some awesome performances by #blackgirlmagic members Simone Biles, Michelle CarterSydney McLaughlin and many more. Black women are breaking records as we proudly watched them bask in the glory of events they were once banned from not too many years ago.

Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to take home an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming while setting an Olympic record and American record. If we talk about the success of Simone Manuel as an athlete, we have to embrace that she is a black athlete who didn’t have to have the pool drained after she competed. In the 1950’s, a Las Vegas hotel had their pool drained because Dorothy Dandrige stuck her toe in the water. We celebrate Simone and the other history making black athletes at the Olympics because unlike what Cam Newton believes, America is not beyond race.

In this week’s #StopAskingPermission, we have to address why professional athletes shouldn’t cower behind their blackness.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the famed quarterback who “dabbed” his way against angry white moms, decided that as an African-American player, he didn’t want his career to be about race. Oh, beloved. I wish it were that simple. The race card has already been played on your behalf.

In 1968, Marlin Brisceo became the first black NFL quarterback. Let’s remember that the American Football Association did not become the National Football League until June 24,1922. Rugby slowly turned into football in 1869. When did slavery end again? How long did Jim Crow last? When were black people allowed to sit in stadiums instead of clean them?

I digress.

Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy

Historically, black men have been discouraged and prevented from playing the position of NFL quarterback. Why? As the first black quarterback to be inducted to the Pro Hall of Fame, Warren Moon once said, “First, we had to prove we could play the position.” He went on to say, “Then we had to face questions about our leadership abilities…Now it’s more of a ‘me’ generation and you can show more of your personality. It used to be that you had to be more like a politician than a football player to be a black quarterback.”

Moon was one of Cam Newton’s advisers as he trained for the NFL Scouting Combine.

Newton holds a position that bears the painful history of racial bias and no matter how many titles he holds, some will still see him as just another black man who happens to play quarterback. He’s just a prize to racist fans expecting him to play the game, win and nothing more.

Only six black quarterbacks have started  in the Super Bowl and only two have actually won one. None of these players  including Cam got there because they were black, but because they earned it. That point is well understood. Yet and still, Cam Newton can never and will never escape being a black quarterback. Our melanin doesn’t wash off that easy, nor does the harsh past of those who came before him in the NFL.

So why not embrace it? Why not just own it? Why not just #StopAskingPermission to be unapologetically black. What is there to lose? Right before his first appearance at Super Bowl 50, Newton said in a media session, “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”

So he understands that if he were a white man then his talent wouldn’t be scary to the mother in Tennessee who wrote a letter describing his behavior as  egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship? Instead, she would see him  as simply being another player who made a great play against her team. We all get mad when our team loses (I’m a Redskins fan so I know this feeling all too well), but we aren’t writing letters questioning a player’s sportsmanship and ego.

Photo: USA Today

As a black man first and athlete second, Cam Newton, like others athletes in his position, should know that issues of systematic racism have no boundaries. They happen off and on a court, football field, convenience store, passenger side of a car or while wearing a hoodie. It’s better to join us rather than act as those these issues don’t affect you. Don’t cower behind your blackness. Embrace it. All our history to empower you and continue to make people uncomfortable. Stir the pot so that the future Cam Newton can see that it is possible to be a proud black man in a power position on a professional sports team. #StopAskingPermission to be able to embrace your blackness and role as a black quarterback, and wear that title as a sign of we made it.

Stay connected to all things Black Twitter, news, and the best content on the Internet by signing up for Blavity’s daily newsletter.