October 5, 2017 at 2:06 PM
Cam Newton is taking a lot of heat — with good reason — for a sexist remark he made to a reporter Wednesday during his weekly media session and it has cost him one national endorsement deal. And in an odd development Thursday, the reporter involved apologized for what she called “offensive tweets from my Twitter account 4/5 years ago.”
Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer asked Newton this question: “I know you take a lot of pride in seeing your receivers play well. Devin Funchess has seemed to really embrace the physicality of his routes and getting those extra yards. Does that give you a little bit of enjoyment to see him kind of truck-sticking people out there?”
As soon as Rodrigue said the word “routes,” Newton began to smirk. The 28-year-old quarterback, in his seventh season with the Panthers, then told the assembled media, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about ‘routes.’”
“It’s funny,” Newton repeated before actually getting around to answering the question.
Dannon Oikos, the yogurt brand that Newton endorses, was unamused and announced Wednesday that it was severing ties with the quarterback, who had appeared in television ads for its product.
“We are shocked and disheartened at the behavior and comments of Cam Newton towards Jourdan Rodrigue, which we perceive as sexist and disparaging to all women,” Michael Neuwirth, senior director of external communication, wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace. It’s simply not okay to belittle anyone based on gender. We have shared our concerns with Cam will no longer work with him.”
Under Armour and Gatorade, two of his other sponsors, have not weighed in yet, but plenty of folks, in the media and elsewhere, found nothing particularly funny about the exchange. The quarterback’s comments would have seemed ludicrously outdated — at best — if he were speaking to any woman, but given that the question was posed by someone who covers an NFL team for a major newspaper, he came off as painfully patronizing to a professional who is in her second season on the beat.
“I don’t think it’s ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes,” Rodrigue subsequently said on Twitter. “I think it’s my job.”
“This afternoon, I did my job as an NFL beat writer and asked Cam Newton a question about one of his receivers. I was dismayed at his response, which not only belittled me but countless other women before me and beside me who work in similar jobs.
“I sought Mr. Newton out as he left the locker room a few minutes later. He did not apologize for his comments.”
Her Observer colleague, Scott Fowler, was in the room at the time and spoke with her about that encounter for a column. Pressed about whether he thought women really didn’t understand routes, Newton told Rodrigue that she wasn’t seeing specific routes, only whether someone was open, according to Fowler’s account. She replied that he did not know what she was seeing or how she had studied the game. She suggested that the two have a deeper talk and Newton said maybe he should have said it was funny to hear “reporters” talk about routes. He went on to say, according to Fowler, that if she did know about them, she knew more than most reporters.
Rodrigue concluded by asking Newton if he knew her name. Although she had introduced herself to him on her first day at the Observer in October 2016, he did not.
“Jourdan Rodrigue, Charlotte Observer,” she said, according to Fowler, and walked off.
The NFL was not happy to hear to Newton’s take. “The comments are just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists who cover our league,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Washington Post. “They do not reflect the thinking of the league.”
That thinking includes efforts to lure women fans, or at least not alienate them, as it did with its ham-handed handling of domestic violence issues a few years ago. The league hired a number of women for highly visible position and having the 2015 NFL MVP send such a derogatory message is not in step with the thinking on Park Avenue.
On Thursday morning, old tweets by Rodrigue surfaced and she issued an apology.
Black Sports Online has a screen grab of another tweet, which has been deleted. In it, she writes, “The earth moves at 450+ MPH that’s 10 times triller than NASCAR Dale Earnharts [sic] a b—- n—-.”
Newton was ripped on social media and a number of women in sports media shared notes of commiseration with Rodrigue. Many observers pointed out how misguided Newton was in assuming that only men could be expected to know the term for the diagramed paths receivers take once a play begins.
The Association for Women in Sports Media said it was “very discouraged by Cam Newton’s disrespectful remarks and actions … As a watchdog group, AWSM demands fair treatment and positive workplace environments for women working in sports media.”
A spokesman for the Panthers said in a statement (via Rapoport), “I have spoken with Jourdan and Cam and I know they had a conversation where he expressed regret for using those words. We strive as a department to make the environment for media comfortable for everyone covering the team.”
Newton caused ripples in 2012, when he used the term “sweetheart” while answering a question from a female reporter during a postgame news conference. In trying to explain the latest in a stretch of frustrating losses by his team, he said, “I’m going to leave this room, and I’m going to bring in a suggestion box, and I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know. … But the only thing I control, sweetheart, is myself. Offensively, I am the leader of this bunch, and we haven’t been getting the job done.”
In August, Katie Sowers became just the second woman hired by an NFL team as a full-time coach and the first to work with wide receivers. On Wednesday, she retweeted a post by the NFL Network’s Kay Adams, in which the latter reacted to Newton’s comments by saying, “Disappointing. Beyond.”
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