By Jesse Larch – Site Editor
Carolina Panthers’ star quarterback Cam Newton garnered much negative attention yesterday when he demeaned a female reporter during a press conference.
Jordan Rodrigue, a beat writer for the Charlotte Observer, asked Newton the following:
“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?”
Newton reacted to the question by making a face that illustrated how seriously he viewed the question and said “it’s funny to hear a female talking about routes.”
The NFL and the Panthers organization both commented on the incident.
“The comments are just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists who cover our league,. They do not reflect the thinking of the league.”
-NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy
Carolina Panthers Spokesman Steven Drummond claimed that he spoke with both Newton and Rodrigue and that Newton “expressed regret for using those words.”
Rodrigue denied Drummond’s claim in a tweet:
I spoke with him after and it was worse. I chose not to share, because I have an actual job to do today and one he will not keep me from.
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) October 4, 2017
In no stretch of the imagination were Newton’s comments appropriate. As someone who has held a press credential and worked alongside individuals far more accomplished than myself, I can attest to the level of professionalism that reporters conduct themselves with to earn and retain their positions.
I imagine that Rodrgiue’s path to become a beat writer for an NFL franchise has not been easy, and a player has no right to demean any reporter for asking a serious, informed question.
That is not to say that players have to obey reporters entirely, as there are instances where a question is inappropriate but that is not at all the case here between Rodrigue and Newton.
Newton is an outspoken player on many issues from refereeing decisions to Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment – and I have often agreed with his sentiments regarding those examples, but sexism has no place in the 21st century, and that includes a male-dominated world like professional football.
The NFL has become more engaged in social issues recently when they supported their players in protest of social inequality and the targeted comments of President Donald Trump, and now is not the time for the NFL to avoid controversy.
The NFL has expressed their displeasure with Newton’s comments, but their track record has not been great with respecting women – albeit they are improving.
The Ray Rice incident was black eye for the NFL, after it appeared that they would abstain from disciplining Rice before the footage of him assaulting his wife went viral. Rice has not been signed by any team since his suspension ended and he was reinstated to the NFL.
The NFL made no decision on Joe Mixon’s eligibility to enter the NFL Draft after a video surfaced of him striking a woman.
The NFL also dropped the ball with Josh Brown, who was given a one-game suspension by the league after admitting assaulting his wife. The NFL took further disciplinary action against Josh Brown only after his admission and his extended history of abuse became public. The NFL also took no action against New York Giants’ Owner John Mara who was also aware of the abuse. It is important to note that Brown remains suspended from the league.
These examples show a trend of the NFL doing a disservice to women in favor of league interests. The NFL only acted when their back was up against the wall.
Now Cam Newton has put the focus back on the NFL and its treatment of women. The NFL can take a much needed stand with Newton. No, Newton did not physically assault a woman as the other three players named did, but what he did is equally detrimental.
Newton communicated to women young and old that he does not think there is a place for them in this game. Newton expressed that he believes women in sports are a joke by laughing directly at the reporter for doing her job.
The Carolina Panthers franchise is worth a reported $2.3 billion according to Forbes. Newton is the face of that franchise which has played in two Super Bowls, one in 2004 and one in 2016 with Newton at the helm.
Newton has been heralded as a strong role model – which I too thought he was. Newton has been a face of a large brand like Dannon, and of NFL community outreach campaigns like Play 60. Newton’s brand is a highly marketable one with great influence. The NFL needs to recognize that one of the faces of their brand has committed an atrocity to society.
The league and the Carolina Panthers organization are the two in position to discipline Newton, and they should not hesitate to do so. The NFL owes it to their female fans and women everywhere after their less-than-satisfying discipline decisions involving players previous interactions with women. The NFL can set a precedent moving forward that this kind of rhetoric is unacceptable under their massive umbrella, and they can begin to change the culture of a league that has an ugly history of disrespecting women.