Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will appear at a mall on Saturday and sign autographs for anyone who has the time to stand in line — and at least $125.
Newton is appearing at an autograph session at which he’ll charge $125 to sign a picture, $150 to sign a football and $175 to sign a jersey, with another $50 on top if you want him to personalize it. Newton will be there for two and a half hours, and he could easily sign his name enough times that he and the organizers of the event could bring in more than $100,000. Not bad for an afternoon of work.
But that doesn’t sit well with everyone. Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler takes Newton to task for charging for his signature, saying that it’s a false step for a guy who usually comes across as sincerely grateful for the position he’s in as a sports superstar, and happy to engage with his fans.
“The Panthers pay Newton plenty of money,” Folwer writes. “Charging for autographs in Charlotte seems a little cheap.”
I get where Fowler is coming from, but I can’t agree. I wish we lived in a world where everyone asking for an autograph was an innocent kid who wanted a memento to savor the thrill of meeting his hero, and where every athlete was delighted to sign for every fan who asked. But the reality is we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where people who ask athletes for autographs turn around and sell them on eBay, and a world where famous athletes can’t go out in public without being mobbed by autograph hounds.
In the real world we live in, a famous person’s autograph is a valuable commodity, and the sports autograph market is a multimillion-dollar business, and the athletes whose autographs are being sold are doing nothing wrong at all if they choose to share in the proceeds.
It’s also important to point out that Newton has shown many times that he’s a generous man. Not only does he sign autographs for free at training camp (as most NFL players do), but when he scores a touchdown he usually gives the ball to a fan in the stands. When Newton scored his 13th touchdown last season, setting a new NFL record for quarterbacks, he could have kept that ball for his own collection, or made plenty of money selling it to a sports memorabilia collector. Instead, he handed it to a girl in the stands. (The girl later gave the ball to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.)
I don’t much care for the whole concept of autographs. I’d rather shake the hand of a famous person I admire, or exchange a few words with him, than ask him to sign his name. But some people love nothing more than to have the signature of a famous person, and are willing to pay handsomely to get it. If those people walk away happy from Newton’s autograph event on Saturday, then their money — and Newton’s time — was well spent.