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Cam Newton challenges NFL’s crackdown on player celebrations

Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers emerges from the tunnel before a game on Nov. 13, 2016.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Cam Newton said NFL players are "owed" the opportunity to celebrate after big plays.

The reigning Most Valuable Player said Tuesday he has no idea if the NFL's sinking TV ratings early this season are tied to the league's crackdown on celebrations, but the man who made "the dab" famous agrees with others players that they should be allowed to express themselves.

"The league has to understand it's entertaining to see that," Newton said.

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Newton, whose Panthers host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, said he tuned into Monday night's game to see how New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would celebrate if he scored a touchdown.

Beckham didn't disappoint, doing his best impersonation of Michael Jackson's Thriller dance, prompting a giddy Newton to imitate Beckham's dance from behind the podium.

Beckham wasn't flagged for excessive celebration, but some players have been this season.

"If it was up to me, there would be no type of …" Newton said, before breaking into a wide smile. "You're asking a person who celebrates. But it's fun. It's like when a person gets a sack, I try not to look to see what they do, but it's all in the game."

Newton grew up in Atlanta watching Deion Sanders high-step into the end zone and still remembers wanting to wear a bandanna like the old Miami Dolphins so he could look cool.

Given how hard NFL players work leading up to games – "we're here until 10 at night and back in at 6 a.m.," he said – they deserve to let loose when a play goes as planned.

"All of that bottled up inside of you and being able to do exactly what you planned and foresaw yourself doing, you are owed something," Newton said. "Some people let it out with a celebration. Some people let it out in different way. It's a give and take thing. But it's kind of reciprocated feeling when a fan goes to see their favourite player and sees them celebrating."

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Newton said people stop him all of the time when he's out in public and want to talk about his first down celebrations or doing "the dab" after a touchdown – mostly stuff that doesn't involve actual plays on the field.

"The little nuances of the game, people can't get enough of," Newton said. "I know I can't."

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