(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Cam Newton was mysteriously benched to start the "Sunday Night Football" game against the Seattle Seahawks. While it was later reported that he was benched for breaking the team's dress code, many are raising their eyebrows at the explanation.
The move immediately came back to haunt the Panthers as backup Derek Anderson threw an interception on the first play and the Seahawks turned the turnover into a field goal.
However, it was still not immediately clear why Newton was benched. The team would only say that the move was not injury related and that it was the decision of head coach Ron Rivera. Newton did return to play on the second series.
NBC later reported that Newton had been disciplined for breaking "a minor team rule."
After halftime, NBC's Michelle Tafoya reported that Newton had been benched for "a dress code violation," something that was confirmed by Rivera after the game.
What was the violation? According to Ashley Stroehlein of WBTV in Charlotte, Newton did not wear a tie.
Cam Newton violated the team dress code by not wearing a tie, per source. #CARvsSEA— Ashley Stroehlein (@ashstro) December 5, 2016
The explanation was immediately met with skepticism from many in and around the NFL.
Joe Person, who covers the Panthers for the Charlotte Observer, wondered aloud if there was more to the benching.
Have a hard time believing dress-code violation is only thing that convinced Ron Rivera to sit down league MVP in nationally televised game.— Joe Person (@josephperson) December 5, 2016
According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN, it would be "exceptionally rare" to discipline a player for a dress-code violation.
"Seeing a lot of speculation about the true nature of Panthers QB Cam Newton's one-play benching tonight. Let's just say this: If it was in fact for a dress code violation, and there had been no previous issues or ongoing concerns, it would be an exceptionally rare discipline for an NFL player."
Here is what Newton was wearing as he entered the stadium.
On subject of Cam Newton's attire, here's what ESPN's cameraman tonight, Phillip Townsend, captured him wearing into the stadium earlier: pic.twitter.com/pposafsjpz— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) December 5, 2016
Newton was also wearing customized cleats prior to the game that led to some speculation.
All players were allowed to wear customized cleats this week to raise awareness for their favorite charities. Newton went through warm-ups wearing cleats that read "EVERY 1 LEARNS, EVERY 1 PLAYS," on one cleat and "EVERY 1 LIVES, EVERY 1 MATTERS," on the second cleat (click to enlarge).
(Ted S. Warren/AP)
Once it was reported that Newton was benched, speculation grew that the cleats were the reason for the discipline.
The shoes do reference the Cam Newton Foundation on the back with the initials "CNF." But at the very least, the reference on the front is similar to the controversial "Black Lives Matter" movement.
Once Newton did enter the game, he was wearing different cleats.
(Ted S. Warren/AP)
It is not unusual for Newton to wear different shoes during warm-ups and during the game. However, Newton's pre-game shoes are not typically approved for in-game use.
The shoes worn during the game also appear to be supporting the Cam Newton Foundation, reading "families fed," on one side and "everybody gives" on another.
Again, there is no indication that the pre-game cleats had anything to do with the discipline. In fact, one report says it was not. But many have raised doubts that a tie is behind the benching.
More From Business Insider
- Cam Newton was benched to start the 'Sunday Night Football' game for disciplinary reasons and it immediately hurt the team
- Former New York Jets running back Joe McKnight has reportedly been killed in a road-rage incident
- Rob Gronkowski reportedly has to get back surgery and could miss the rest of the season