Over the years, Cam Newton has been outspoken about racial equality, but his comments today show he doesn’t care about gender equality.
This afternoon, Newton showed his colors when Carolina Panthers beat writer Jourdan Rodrigue asked him about wide receiver Devin Funchess:
“I know you take a lot of pride in seeing your receivers playing well,” Rodrigue said. “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?”
That’s a perfectly normal question — a good one, in fact — but when Rodrigue said the word “routes,” Newton smirked and looked at the podium before delivering this response.
“It’s funny to hear a female talk about…routes,” Newton said, snarling on the last word. “Like…it’s funny.”
With a patronizing smile, he went on to answer the question, but the damage was done. Newton is facing a mountain of backlash on social media for his remarks, and apparently, his behavior was even worse when she addressed him afterwards.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 4, 2017
The Panthers quickly put out a statement confirming that Newton and Rodrigue spoke and that he “expressed regret for using those words,” which she denies. After scrolling through Twitter, I’m certain that Newton does feel regret over the exchange, but not for the right reasons. His smug delivery of what he thought was a hilarious joke suggests he won’t change. Tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll do damage control and everyone will move on to the next thing to be outraged over, which is its own sad reality, especially because this is a very real issue.
Sexism is hardly a new problem, particularly for women who cover sports, and the fact that society isn’t past it in 2017 is unfortunate, but not surprising. Newton’s comments are a disappointing reminder that, for female reporters and women in general, there will always be men out there — whether it be players, coaches, or even colleagues — waiting for a chance to look down on you, doubt you, or in this case, laugh.
But Newton’s comments are also wrong. I’m hardly an X’s or O’s expert when it comes to football nor do I pretend to be, but thankfully, the industry is flooded with women who are, many who know more about routes than most male reporters or even Newton himself. I can think of two in our own backyard in Jen Smith and Christi Thomas. The only reason Newton found that question funny is because it was asked by a woman, which speaks volumes.
A few months ago, a man on Twitter dismissed my opinion about growing concerns over head trauma in football because I’m a woman, so therefore I could never understand the true value of football. That’s the most absurd argument I’ve ever heard. Are political reporters only worth listening to if they’ve been politicians themselves? What about people who write about space; do they have to be astronauts to understand? Why is it so easy — and important — for some men to belittle women’s thoughts on sports? Is it insecurity?
In many ways, it is an excellent time to be a woman in sports media. Now, more than ever, women are getting lead roles on major networks. Beth Mowins just called “Monday Night Football.” Doris Burke will be the first female full-time national NBA game analyst this season. Kara Lawson is now a primary TV analyst for the Washington Wizards. Just today, ESPN announced it has hired Katie Nolan, who will probably get her own show and podcast, and it’s about time.
But, in other ways, the fact that female sports reporters still have to deal with men questioning their intelligence feels inevitable. And it’s not funny.