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Newton creates gender controversy

Peter Ghaly, R2 Sports/News Editor

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On Oct. 4, Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton fielded questions during a press conference with reporters, something he has done many times since he was drafted first overall by the Panthers in 2011.
Jourdan Rodrigue, a female beat reporter for the Charlotte Observer, asked Newton a football question: “Cam, I know you take a lot of pride in seeing your receivers play well. [Panthers teammate] 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?”

Midway through Rodrigue’s question, the 2015 National Football League MVP started chuckling. When it was time for him to answer, Newton, still trying to hold back a grin, said, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes, like … it’s funny.”
Newton then answered the question normally, but his remark did not go unnoticed. The clip of his comment went viral online and he received a great deal of scrutiny for the sexist nature of his comments. There is no question that his remark was sexist, even if he insists that he did not mean for it to come off that way.

Newton was initially unapologetic. It was only after the public backlash and when one of his biggest sponsors, Dannon, pulled him from its advertising campaign that Newton released a public apology via his Twitter account.

Initially, Newton claimed that the comment was a form of sarcasm, and that the remark was actually a compliment to Rodrigue.
Rodrigue did not accept this explanation for the remark, and rightfully so. She tweeted, “I don’t think it’s ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job.”

And she is right. What Newton said was far from any joke or sarcastic compliment. It was a humiliation of Rodrigue as a woman. Newton suggested that a woman having an occupation associated with a male-dominated sport is a joke, and the fact that she could ask him a football question was amusing to him.

But Newton’s comment is not reflective of the character he typically exhibits. He is involved in charity in Charlotte, and is regarded as one of the most charismatic and friendly players in the NFL, even despite some occasional dramatic flare-ups.
Newton has suffered the consequences, but it is imperative that he learn his lesson. He could have used his platform as a star athlete to advocate for positive things, but instead allowed his ignorance to bring him down.

Conversely, the backlash he has received for his remarks is encouraging. It shows that, at least in the football world, there is an expectation that women are accepted and can always have a place, and that the sexism Newton displayed is intolerable.

While it is critical that Newton’s ignorance be noted because of the platform on which he spoke, many might want to also take a look in the mirror. It is fair for others to ask themselves how many times they have made similar mistakes, and what kind of backlash they would experience if their words were magnified on the same scale.

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