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Heart On His Sleeves
Greg Newsome II doesn’t want his impact on the city of Cleveland to be limited to what he does on the football field
By Anthony Poisal Jul 06, 2021

Part 2 of 3

Greg Newsome II wanted to make sure everyone knew what he stood for on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, one of the most important days of his life.

Newsome, one of the top cornerbacks of the draft class, is a massive advocate for all things equality. When dozens of cameras were set to be trained on him for Round 1, he didn't want to wear a suit with an array of fancy colors and stylings that made him appear like the millionaire he was about to be.

Instead, he wanted to display red messages of important phrases stitched over a black jacket.

The phrase "Women Can Ball Too" was sewn across the left sleeve. "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Their Names" were on the back. "Stop Asian Hate" was on the right sleeve.

"I didn't want (the phrases) on the inside," Newsome said. "I wanted it outside — so that everyone can see it."

Provided from Northwestern Athletic Department
Provided from Northwestern Athletic Department

Newsome made a statement on what's most important to him before he could even complete his first NFL interview. As he was shown on TV celebrating with friends and family after the Browns drafted him with the 26th overall pick, everyone tuned into the draft could see his passion for speaking up about social justice and equality.

"People aren't getting treated [equally] just because of how they look. That's just obviously not OK at all," he said in an interview with local reporters later that night. "I'm just trying to get the message out and just trying to be somebody that people know – the people that are getting marginalized and things like that – they know that at least Greg Newsome is going to be somebody that is going to push for them and try to get them equality."

Newsome didn't wait until he got to the NFL to start voicing his messages. Just ask his girlfriend, Veronica Burton.

Burton, who plays on Northwestern's women's basketball team and has been dating Newsome since 2018, has heard his voice several times on the court. He's one of the team's biggest fans, both because of his overall love for basketball — the first sport he truly embraced as a kid — and because he believes women don't get enough credit for their talents in the sports world.

"He really loves women's basketball and women's sports in general," Burton said. "He was at the Big Ten Tournament for me this year, which meant a lot because he was gone for a while in Arizona for training. He found a way to make it out there for his support."

Newsome's outpouring of support for the women's team started when he realized the massive difference in attendance and overall attention they received compared to men's sports — and, particularly, the football team.

Northwestern football went 3-9 in Newsome's sophomore year, but Ryan Field always popped with energy from over 30,000 fans.

The women's basketball team, meanwhile, lost just four games and was one of the best teams in the Big Ten. They rarely cracked more than 1,000 fans per home game.

"(The women) weren't getting any recognition from the school at all," he said. "They were the best team, and we (the football team) were horrible my sophomore year. The women's basketball team was like 30-2. They barely lost, and they weren't having any type of support.

"I was like, 'How?'"

Newsome couldn't stand it. So he decided to attend as many of the games as possible.

Starting his sophomore year, he rarely missed a Northwestern women's basketball home game and would occasionally travel for away games. He also was a frequent spectator for women's soccer games and lacrosse games, and he always made sure to bring a pack of friends with him as long as everyone followed one rule: be loud.

"Him and all those guys he brought with him were the loudest people in the gym every single time," Burton said, "and it really makes a big difference because you just don't have that in women's games, really."

Newsome's passion and energy for women's sports is just one example of how he's taken a stand in what he believes in.

In the spring of 2020, he and Burton attended a gathering and walk in Evanston following the murder of George Floyd that invigorated movements for racial equality and social justice. Newsome also frequently voices his support for those movements on social media and isn't afraid to push his messaging out to his growing number of fans.

"He feels some sense of responsibility because he's in that position with a bigger following," Burton said. "He feels that responsibility and opportunity to use his voice."

Now that he's in the NFL, Newsome plans to continue to build a presence off the field and throughout the communities of both his old home in Chicago and new home in Cleveland.

He plans on being a frequent player in attendance throughout the Browns' numerous community efforts, and he hopes to soon establish himself in Cleveland as a player who not only made an impact on the field, but also throughout the communities in Northeast Ohio.

"That's something I've been thinking about since I was young," he said "I want to affect the inner city and affect the youth, just being around and showing them a positive person will help them a lot. I want to be able to get in the city in Cleveland and Chicago and just give them knowledge and show somebody who can be positive.

"I want to show them a positive role model they can follow."

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