Oh my. This will require a lot more kneeling by the NFL, ironically just as it begins its monthlong drive to fight breast cancer. Cam Newton, one of the NFL’s top players, found it “funny” to hear a female sports reporter discuss receiver routes at a press conference, and suddenly the social-justice shoe appeared to be on the other foot:
It's funny to hear Cam Newton, who ranks 25th in the NFL in total QBR (43.3), talk about routes. pic.twitter.com/AhLvUokS6z
— Jackie Bamberger (@jackie_bam) October 4, 2017
Newton took a question from The Observer’s Carolina Panthers reporter, Jourdan Rodrigue, about his receivers.
“I know you take a lot of pride in seeing your receivers play well,” she began. “[Wide receiver] Devin Bunches seemed to really embrace the physicality of his routes, and making, getting those extra yards – does that give you a little bit of enjoyment to see him truck stick people out there?”
“It’s funny,” Newton said with a wide smile, “to see a female talk about routes, like, it’s funny.”
While there was dead silence in the room, except for one other person who laughed softly along with Newton, the media exploded afterward with criticism against Newton for what many saw as sexist and condescending comments.
“Many saw”? Newton’s statement was objectively sexist and condescending. He used sex as a qualifier, and pointing it out while answering was a condescension. Rodrique certainly understood Newton’s meaning, and claimed that she got even worse condescension when she tried to discuss the issue more privately:
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
According to another source, it really didn’t go well:
— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) October 5, 2017
Women have reported on the NFL beat for decades, competing well in an industry whose fan base has expanded among women over the same period. There’s nothing particular to gender about comprehending routes and performance. If the prerequisite for understanding that phase of the game is to have played it, then most of the male reporters would have similar comprehension issues. Newton came around to that argument eventually, but not soon enough, and it’s still a poor argument. Football can be understood by non-players; if it couldn’t, no one would watch it.
One can argue whether this is the end of the world as we know it, or just one player with his head firmly planted in his nether regions at a relatively youthful age (28). I tend to consider it the latter more than the former, especially given the effort the NFL has made to adjust to give equal access to male and female reporters in the past few decades. (Rodrique may have a different perspective; if she does, she wasn’t sharing it on Twitter.) A single player does not reflect the whole league, any more than one police officer reflects on the whole law-enforcement profession.
However, the league is taking no chances. They issued a statement distancing themselves from Newton. Let the kneeling begin:
Statement from the NFL on Cam Newton’s comments to a female reporter today: ‘’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.”
The public beating continued on ESPN. Molly Qerim blasted Newton for his “ignorance and dated ideals,” and took aim at Roddy White for his support for Newton’s comments:
Stephen A. Smith declared his “extreme disappointment”:
The comment has already hit Newton in the pocketbook. Dannon Yogurt has dropped him as an endorser:
Dannon, the maker of Oikos yogurt, is cutting ties with spokesman Cam Newton following what the company perceives as “sexist” comments the Carolina quarterback made to a female reporter.
Company spokesperson Michael Neuwirth released a statement Thursday saying it was “shocked and disheartened” at the former league MVP’s behavior and comments toward Jourdan Rodrigue, a Charlotte Observer reporter.
The blowback hasn’t all been aimed at Newton, however. Unfortunately for Rodrique, her efforts to lecture Newton on sexism prompted scrutiny of her own public comments by other social-justice warriors. As it turns out ….
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) October 5, 2017
Scroll through the replies to find the tweets that emerged from Rodrique’s account, which seem fairly tame to those outside the outrage bubble. So once again, woke eats itself in a fury of competing social-justice interests. That doesn’t make her criticisms of Newton wrong, but it will probably discourage her from pressing the issue. Which is, of course, the entire point of this kind of public shaming, as my friends Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham explained so effectively in End of Discussion. It’s an attempt to shift the issue from whether Rodrique is correct in her criticism — she is — to whether she has any right to argue her position on the merits. Molly Qerim and Stephen Smith had better do a purge on their social-media accounts forthwith.
Update: Give Cam credit for a solid apology and taking full responsibility for his error:
— Cameron Newton (@CameronNewton) October 6, 2017
“Don’t be like me,” he says to kids following the story, “be better than me.” Well done.