On Wednesday, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stepped in it. When asked by Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue about an issue regarding a wide receiver, Newton responded with a dismissive and snide remark. “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes. Like, it’s funny,” he said.
Rodrigue, understandably offended, later spoke with Newton after the exchange away from cameras. “He did not apologize for his comments,” she said about their conversation.
Online outrage soon followed. Dannon quickly dropped Newton as a celebrity endorser for its Oikos Greek yogurt line. (The company has reportedly replaced him with Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.) And on Thursday, Newton released a videotaped statement in which he said his “word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women.”
To make an ugly incident even uglier, old tweets from Rodrigue were uncovered in which, according to the Observer, “she made light of racist remarks made by others and retweeted a racial slur.” She then tweeted her own apology.
“The Twitter posts are regrettable and we wish they hadn’t happened,” Observer editor Sherry Chisenhall said of Rodrigue’s tweets. “We don’t condone the posts or the messages they convey. We believe Jourdan is deeply sincere in her apology and regret about those tweets.”
So, where does this leave us?
On Sunday, before the Panthers’ contest against the Detroit Lions, Newton made an appeal to women everywhere by wearing a Rosie the Riveter pin on his fedora (as one does). As for Rodrigue, the Panthers beat reporter did not travel to Detroit to cover the game. According to the Charlotte Observer’s executive sports editor, she was ”taking some time off.”
Come gametime, the indignity of losing the support of a yogurt conglomerate didn’t appear to hamper Newton: He threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers’$2 27-24 victory.
When asked to explain his fashion statement after the game, Newton said, ”I did my homework on [Rosie the Riveter] and her impact on World War II. Not only on her, but all the women and females who played a big impact in creating equipment for World War II.”
Apart from this impromptu women’s studies lesson, Newton also spoke to reporters about his original comments to Rodrigue, insisting that he was actually trying to pay her a compliment. “It was a lesson learned for me this whole week. My sarcasm trying to give somebody kind of a compliment turned in ways I never would have even imagined,” he said.
Apologies if you were looking for a teachable moment here. Maybe it’ll come in NFL week six.