Earlier this month, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made a controversial comment during a press conference to a female reporter that many are calling sexist. “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said, then paused. “Like, it’s funny.”
Jourdan Rodrigue, the Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer, asked Newton a question about his teammate Devin Funchess’ routes, which prompted the sexist response. Following the press conference, Rodrigue released a statement regarding her interaction with Newton, saying, “I was dismayed by his response, which not only belittled me but countless other women before me and beside me who work in similar jobs. I sought Mr. Newton out as he left the locker room a few minutes later. He did not apologize for his comments.”
A few days later, after losing a sponsorship from Dannon yogurt, Newton made a public apology which he posted to his Twitter account, condemning the remarks he made to Rodrigue. He called his words “degrading and disrespectful to women.” Although his words express regret, the fact that he did not apologize immediately following the exchange is what truly speaks volumes. Newton likely posted the apology to preserve his own public image and retain his remaining sponsors.
Newton’s sexist remark demonstrates the lack of respect many hold for women in certain career fields. Just because Rodrigue was a woman, she was looked down upon for asking a valid question. If it was any man who asked the same thing, there would have been no disparaging comment. “I don’t think it’s “funny” to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job,” Rodrigue tweeted after the incident.
Is it the be-all and end-all that Newton thought it was funny to hear a woman speak about football? Likely not. Generally speaking, most people working in the NFL and most sports reporters are male. According to an article posted by sportingnews.com this past July, only 55 women are currently working for NFL teams. Likewise, a 2014 report by womensmediacenter.com reported over 90% of people working in sports journalism are male. His shock at a female reporter could genuinely just be due to the lack of women working in the field.
Newton’s comment signifies that times should change. If a woman is knowledgeable in a certain subject area, she should not be denied the equal opportunity to pursue that career. Women like Jordan Rodrigue who do not conform to the gender norms of their field don’t deserve to be laughed at while trying to do their job. Hopefully, we reach the point where being female and having a certain career just isn’t a big deal.