Cam Newton is taking a lot of heat Wednesday, and with good reason. The Carolina Panthers quarterback exhibited blatant sexism in his response to a reporter’s question during his weekly press session.
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.
C'mon Cam, it's 2017pic.twitter.com/rpeknn8hSL— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) October 4, 2017
Plenty of folks, in the media and elsewhere, did not think there was anything particularly funny about the question, and certainly not about Newton’s reaction. The quarterback’s comments would have seemed ludicrously outdated, at best, if he were speaking to any “female,” but given that the question was posed by someone who has been covering an NFL team for a major newspaper, he came off as painfully patronizing.
“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.”
Rodrigue added that she talked to Newton about his remarks after the session, “and it was worse.” Later, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted a statement from Rodrigue:
“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.”
“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 Post. “They do not reflect the thinking of the league.”
Others took to social media to castigate Newton for his comments, while numerous women in sports media shared notes of commiseration with Rodrigue. Many observers pointed out how misplaced the 2015 NFL MVP was in assuming that only men could be expected to know the term for the diagramed paths receivers take once a play begins.
Every female sports reporter has encountered a neanderthal like Cam Newton over the course of her career. They go low. We go high.— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) October 4, 2017
What frustrates me about Cam Newton's comments: He's not joking around with friends, he's being condescending to a reporter doing her job— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) October 4, 2017
every woman in every field has stories like this; they’re just not usually on camera— Natalie Weiner (@natalieweiner) October 4, 2017
Ladies - do not feel forced into defending our sports knowledge. This is on Cam Newton - NOT ON US. Unacceptable in 2017 to go back to this— Laura Okmin (@LauraOkmin) October 4, 2017
Maybe some day an intelligent thought will find a route to Cam Newton's empty head.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) October 4, 2017
I’ve never run a route in my damn life and yet Cam Newton would never laugh at me for asking a question about one. That’s called privilege— Riley McAtee (@Riley_McAtee) October 4, 2017
The Association for Women in Sports Media said it was “very discouraged by Cam Newton’s disrespectful remarks and actions directed to a female reporter during today’s Carolina Panthers press conference. 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 NFL Network’s Ian 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.”
In 2012, Newton 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 NFL Network’s Kay Adams, in which the latter reacted to Newton’s comments by saying, “Disappointing. Beyond.”