Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon re-entered the pre-draft dialogue surrounding Cam Newton this week, expressing frustration and outrage over the "racially based" treatment he claims the Auburn quarterback has received.
The furor started Tuesday, when Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki issued a sharp critique of Newton's character, labeling the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback as "selfish" and "fake."
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"Very disingenuous -- has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup," Nawrocki wrote in his scouting report. "Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law -- does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room ... Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness -- is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable."
Moon, who was an unpaid advisor to Newton before February's NFL Scouting Combine and has kept in touch with him via phone and text messages, stood by his belief during a telephone interview Friday that Newton has been mis-characterized. Moon believes Newton is being unfairly criticized by people who have never met him while NFL teams evaluate the quarterback before the April 28-30 draft.
"Are any of these sources his coaches, guys that were around him every day? Any of his players that were on his football team?" Moon said on "NFL Total Access" on NFL Network. "I've talked to all of them, and I don't get any of this. ...
"I guess they were talking about he isn't punctual. I guess he's late a lot. Well, if he's late, talk to the guys that he has to report to every day. They can tell you if he's late or not. General managers are telling you that he's late? They're not with him every day. Talk to the people that are around him every day if you want to get really good evaluations on a player."
Moon took particular exception to the part of Nawrocki's evaluation that labeled Newton's smile as "fake."
"How do you judge a player on his smile, whether his smile is fake or not?" Moon asked. "I've never heard anything like that in all my years of listening to evaluations on players or anybody, whether their smile is fake or not and you've never met the kid. If you're going by what general managers have to say, most of those general managers spend 15 minutes with him at the combine, so how are they going to get a real good sense of who this kid is by that?"
Nawrocki, who played football at the University of Illinois, defended his sourcing of the scouting report in a phone interview on "NFL Total Access."
"(I) talked to a lot of people in the Auburn program and a lot of people throughout Cam's career," Nawrocki said. "Talking to NFL sources, just tracking down his background.
"I'd rather not go into any specific sources, but anybody that questions what was written can go back and do the homework. Close the door and talk to people. But it all comes down to trust -- trusting relationships. And I think you'll find the view of people that know the kid and have been around him, they'll tell you that everything in that report is very accurate."
Moon fired back by calling Nawrocki's methods "irresponsible."
"The things this guy is saying, they just don't have any merit to it," Moon said. "It's very irresponsible reporting. I think his sources should come forward with whoever is saying he (Newton) doesn't have leadership ability, that he can't control or command the locker room. Just things like that. You don't win national championships as a quarterback without being able to have leadership qualities or being able to get your players to rally around you. It just won't happen."
Moon, who said he experienced his share of racially charged criticism when he came out of the University of Washington in 1978, told CBSSports.com on Wednesday that "a lot of the criticism (Newton) is receiving is unfortunate and racially based."
"I thought we were all past this," Moon said then. "I don't see other quarterbacks in the draft being criticized by the media or fans about their smile or called a phony. He's being held to different standards from white quarterbacks. I thought we were past all this stuff about African-American quarterbacks, but I guess we're not.
"Of course there is racism in every walk of society. We've made a lot of progress in this country. But racism is still there. I just thought in the sports arena we were beyond it. I think the way Cam is being treated shows we're not."
Nawrocki called the suggestion that his evaluation was racially charged "crazy."
"If you look at the history of our work, I think you'll see that we treat every player the same," he said. "The best evaluators are color blind in their assessments. I think we treat it the same way.
"Look back at J.P. Losman's report. ... Look back at Jimmy Clausen. We treat them all the same. If they have issues there, if they like to party, if they can't command the respect in the locker room, we're going to call it like it we see it. It's as simple as that."
Moon defended his comments on his Twitter account Friday, writing: "4 those of u that don't like my opinions, it's 2 bad u feel that way. I answered the questions asked and know what I said. Unless u have been a black QB, u have no idea!"
Like Newton, Tim Tebow -- the quarterback of the moment entering last year's draft -- endured questions about transitioning from a spread offense to a pro-style attack. But Moon believes Newton has received criticism while other spread quarterbacks -- namely, white quarterbacks such as Tebow -- aren't subject to the same depth of scrutiny.
"The thing that makes me laugh is the question of, can he (Newton) come out of the spread offense? Can he run a pro offense?," Moon told CBSSports.com. "Colt McCoy came out of the spread offense, and very few people raised that issue about him. So did Sam Bradford. Same thing. Very few questions asking if Bradford could run a pro offense. Some of these questions about Cam are more about his intellect. It's blatant racism, some of it."
Moon also suggested that Newton is being negatively impacted by highly drafted black quarterbacks before him who didn't live up to expectations.
"We've had black quarterbacks taken first overall recently like JaMarcus Russell. ... Unfortunately, those players didn't have success," Moon said. "One of the things that's happening with Cam is that he's being lumped in with them. It's not fair. They're all different guys."
Controversy seems to follow Newton. He left the University of Florida after his November 2008 arrest in a laptop theft, although the charges were dropped after he finished a pretrial intervention program. Then, last December, the NCAA ruled that Newton's father, Cecil, and a scouting service owner shopped the quarterback's services in exchange for money without his knowledge. Newton drew further ire when he told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that he saw himself as "an entertainer and icon" -- comments for which he later apologized.
Despite all that, NFL teams have lined up to meet with the talented quarterback. Right after the NFL Scouting Combine ended in early March, Newton was scheduled to work out for eight teams -- the Carolina Panthers (No. 1 overall draft pick), Buffalo Bills (No. 3), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 4), Cleveland Browns (No. 6), Tennessee Titans (No. 8), Washington Redskins (No. 10), Minnesota Vikings (No. 12) and Miami Dolphins (No. 15).