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The Joe Burrow Effect: How the Bengals quarterback is uniting the team and Cincinnati

Zack Carreon
This Joe Burrow mural, located on Central Ave in the West End, was done by Cincinnati artist Danny Gamble before the last year's Super Bowl.

The Cincinnati Bengals are just one win away from their second-straight Super Bowl appearance. While they remain underdogs heading into the AFC Championship game in Kansas City for a second year, the man under center, Joe Burrow, has the Bengals and the city of Cincinnati walking with confidence.

Even though they came close to winning it all last year, the 2022-2023 Bengals were not expected by much of the football world to come within reach of the Super Bowl again so soon — but you wouldn't know it by looking at this team and their quarterback.

In just a few short years, Burrow has managed to captivate the people of Cincinnati and football fans around the country with his unique style and unwavering confidence.

His eye-catching pregame fashion has social media and sports talk shows buzzing seemingly every time he walks into an NFL stadium.

From the Cartier shades to the latest sneaker, Burrow has a style all his own. But it's clear to some that his fashion choices are heavily influenced by Black culture, something his teammates and Black football fans in Cincinnati have embraced.

"The Black community here in Cincinnati — we like Joe Burrow," life-long Bengals fan and creator of the clothing brand BlaCk OWned Outerwear Means Cameron said. "Not just because he's winning, but because of his energy. We know that Joe Burrow — if he wasn't so busy being Joe Burrow — he would come and hang out and have a coffee with us or have a drink. He has that energy and it seems like his teammates get that from him."

Cameron says the Bengals have had a lot of good quarterbacks come and play in Cincinnati, but none of them have connected with the fanbase quite like Joe.

"He's just a different breed," Cameron said. "You can feel his leadership. Even just watching him in an interview you can feel it, but you can also feel the brotherhood inside of him. I never felt that way about Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer for that matter. They were just guys who were playing the quarterback position."

In some ways, Burrow's exuberant personality and style choices have played a part in changing the way Bengals fans from different cultural backgrounds view the franchise.

"For so long, I felt like we were just separated as a Bengals fanbase," Cameron said. "You had the white community and then you had the minority community and I don't know if there was a lot of overlap in those years. And I don't even believe the perception of the Bengals' front office was welcoming to collaborating with the minority community."

Despite an uneasy past, Cameron says his views of the franchise changed when Bengals director of strategy and engagement, Elizabeth Blackburn, reached out to him about a collaboration with his company BlaCk OWned Outerwear. He says when he met with a few players from the team about working together, Burrow was the first one on board.

"That took me for a loop. I'm not hiding what I'm about. It's called BlaCk OWned. It's meant to be inspirational for people who look like me," Cameron said. "Joe was the first one. He was like, 'I'm in.' And after he said, 'I'm in' the other guys were like, 'I'm in too.' "

The desire this current Bengals team has to connect with all sides of the community is what Cameron describes as putting the puzzle pieces of Cincinnati together, uniting people of all backgrounds around the team.

Some have credited Burrow's demeanor for the success the Bengals have had the past two seasons. While that may seem far-fetched, Cameron says a confident leader in NFL can make all the difference.

"With Joe Burrow, it's like the calm before the storm. We're in good hands," Cameron said.

Whether the Bengals win or lose on Sunday, two things are certain. Joe Burrow will be confident and the sports world watching his attire closely.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.