A bit of a dustup broke out on the web last night and this morning after Cam Newton was interviewed on the ESPN and local Los Angeles KCAL 9 Lakers-Suns telecast Wednesday night.
During the game, prominent Birmingham TV personality and WJOX-FM radio host Jim Dunaway Tweeted, “Hanging at Lakers-Suns… Pugh and most Auburn players in upper deck…Cam in lower bowl. Thanks Barkley for the tix.”
That Tweet along with courtside interviews that Newton did during the telecast was part of a chain reaction on Twitter and message boards across the country of people wondering if Newton had indeed gotten special treatment at the game that might amount to an NCAA violation.
During the second quarter of the game, Newton was interviewed in one of the tunnels of the U.S. Airways Arena by ESPN’s Heather Cox. After that interview, John Ireland of KCAL 9 interviewed Newton near seats normally reserved for the Suns cheerleaders just behind one of the baskets. (Ireland told me this morning it was he who directed Newton to that area because security complained that Newton’s interview on ESPN had blocked the tunnel.)
For the game, Newton was seated in Section 113 in the lower bowl while many of his teammates were in seats scattered around the arena in both the lower and upper level of the building. Auburn Sports Information Director Kirk Sampson was with Newton throughout the night to handle media requests that came up before and during the game.
Barkley told Dan Patrick this morning that he did not provide tickets to Newton. On his radio and FSN/Direct TV show, Patrick said:
“I called (Charles) Barkley and asked him, ‘did you get Cam Newton the tickets for the Suns game?’
“Barkley said, ‘Tell those people who are writing this to kiss my ass. I did not get him those tickets. But if he wanted tickets I would’ve gotten them for him.’
“He (Barkley) said, ‘I’m going to mention more on this on TNT tonight. This bothers me that they’re trying to throw me in there. I didn’t have any contact with the kid.’”
While there were Auburn and Oregon players in the upper deck of U.S. Airways arena, I’ve been told by media who attended the game that there were also plenty of players from both schools in the lower bowl as well. Mostly behind the baskets.
Yes, Newton had marginally better seats than most of his teammates, but he did not get those seats from a person who represented Auburn’s athletic interests. (Barkley.)
Also, Newton never thanked or mentioned Barkley during his interviews with Cox and Ireland. I watched the Cox interview this morning and talked to Ireland today about his interview with Newton, which was cut short because of technical problems.
UPDATE: Jim Dunaway has since Tweeted:
Not that anyone asked, but I was thanking Barkley for getting me and my friends into the game, not Cam.
For context, here’s Dunaway’s original Tweet last night:
Hanging at Lakers-Suns… Pugh and most Auburn players in upper deck…Cam in lower bowl. Thanks Barkley for the tix.
For the record, I direct-messaged Dunaway via Twitter 30 minutes before this post first went up. In fairness, that’s not a whole lot of time.
Also, Dunaway’s Tweet was far from the only one noting Newton’s seat location. That along with radio show chatter and message board speculation led me to post the facts about the situation.