After making what many deemed to be a painfully sexist remark at a midweek Panthers news conference, Cam Newton apologized a day later and said he’d “learned a valuable lesson” from his experience of being widely criticized. On Sunday, though, after leading Carolina to a 27-24 win at Detroit, Newton made another eyebrow-raising comment.
The quarterback was asked again about his answer Wednesday to a question from Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue, in which he had smirked and said, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about ‘routes.’ ” The ensuing firestorm included a stern rebuke from the NFL and the loss of at least one major sponsorship for Newton.
“It was a lesson learned for me this whole week,” Newton told reporters Sunday. “My sarcasm trying to give somebody a compliment turned in ways I never would have imagined.”
At the time, Rodrigue certainly did not think she was being paid a compliment, saying on Twitter, “I don’t think it’s ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job.” The 28-year-old quarterback’s critics included numerous other female sports journalists, many of whom recounted their own experiences with sexism.
On Thursday, Newton said in a video apology, “I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women. … To the young people who see this, I hope that you learn something from this as well. Don’t be like me. Be better than me.”
Newton also said, “I realize that the joke was really on me,” and he indicated Sunday that he still considers his much-condemned remarks as an attempt at humor gone awry. That could raise questions as to how much he truly understands just how “degrading and disrespectful to women” his comments really were.
Rather than fully taking ownership of his “word choice,” as he had said Thursday, Newton seemed to be trying to deflect some of that criticism Sunday. If he thinks the controversy stemmed from him being misunderstood, then he continues to misunderstand the profoundly deep well of frustration for female sports journalists, not to mention women in all walks of life, into which he so cavalierly tapped.
For the team flight to Detroit and after Sunday’s game, Newton did show that he was conscious of trying to project a more pro-women image: He wore a hat with a button featuring the World War II-era portrait of the “We Can Do It!” woman (often erroneously referred to as “Rosie the Riveter”).
“I just wanted to have a little shout-out to all the strong women around,” he told reporters.
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