Wednesday afternoon, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers made news when he made a comment that has been perceived by many as sexist, when asked about ‘routes’ by a female reporter for the Carolina Panthers.
After asking Newton about the way one of his receivers ran a route, he chuckled and said “Its funny to hear a female talk about routes… its funny”. After a few sarcastic gestures he finally answered the question in a dismissive manner.
It’s not funny, it’s not sarcastic and unfortunately, it’s all too common. With all the strides we’ve made in the Women’s Rights movement, it’s not uncommon to see men – and some women – dismiss a woman doing her job or following her dream.
I reached out to a few mentors, colleagues and fellow sports writers, all from different backgrounds, different walks of life and received what was for the most part a consensus answer of the statement being wrong.
“The only thing missing was him patting her on the head and saying ‘how cute.’”
I asked El Paso Herald-Post’s Editor in Chief, Chris Babcock about his thoughts on the comments made by Newton.
“He’s not a rookie, he knows there are female reporters, color commentators and even play by play… at the most basic level, he probably thought he was making a joke, but it’s a different world. The only thing missing was him patting her on the head and saying ‘How cute.’”
There are numerous women in sports media, so the mindset of “women don’t know sports” or “It’s weird to see women around the football field” is an antiquated remark. Women like Josina Anderson, Lisa Salters, Erin Andrews and Pam Oliver have paved the way for Jourdan Rodrique and any woman who wants to make a career in reporting not just the NFL but in any sports.
Is there really a surprise seeing women talk about sports, even football when major companies like ESPN have been giving a platform to women and introduced ESPNW as a way to empower women in sports and try to get passed this old line of thinking.
“It’s a topic because he’s Cam Newton… by him being Cam Newton, he has a bigger eye view on him.”
Perhaps I am biased; I have 10 sisters when you add my adopted and biological families, so maybe I’m not the one to break it down. I asked a two of my friends, both women of color both with two different points of view on the issue at hand.
Nu Erives, a UTEP grad and editor at ESPN gave this perspective.
“Sadly, I’m not surprised. It is something we experience on a daily basis in this industry. Behind or in front of the cameras, women will always be looked at as the ones who don’t know sports.”
She went on to describe her experience at a different TV Station.
“I used to work at another station. When I got the job I was the ONLY woman in charge of two men. Their first reaction was ‘Do you even know how to grab a camera and edit? Or are you just here because you think you are pretty and that can take you in front of the cameras?’”
Ashton Washington, an up-and-coming and extremely talented writer gave this perspective of it.
“It’s surprising when guys hear females talk/understand football, very mind-blowing because it’s a man’s game. Jourdan just took it offensively because it was Cam Newton. If I was put into that situation I would’ve laughed it off.”
I asked what about Cam Newton made this particular topic a story?
“It’s a topic because of all the racial division going on in the country now. She’s a Caucasian woman and he’s an African American NFL player. By him being Cam Newton means he has a bigger eye view on him. Her tweet has over 10,000 retweets as of right now.”
The subject of race does have to be brought up on this particular topic. Does it make the news if Tom Brady were to make the comments? Is it a joke? Was the reporter too sensitive about the issue? I shudder to think of the backlash if the current man in the most powerful office in the free world were to make the same comment, how that would fly, but this isn’t the world of “what if”, it is the world of actualities and Cam Newton said those words to that reporter, and dismissed her as if she were nothing to him.
“It was a (terrible) comment for him to make in general. It is irrelevant as to who’s asking the question. Then again, he could have been just messing with her, but still, it’s not a smart thing to say, especially in today’s world.” – Brandon Cohn
Perhaps Ms. Washington is right, maybe because of his past transgressions people put a bulls-eye on Cam Newton, watching him like a hawk and critiquing his every move. He has been the center of negative publicity a time or two, but the past shouldn’t be held against him.
The topic of race is complex and it did make me raise an eyebrow, but every other person asked, Latinos, white, male, female, Christian and Jewish had the same answer, “Even if he were (Insert white QB), this would still be an issue, you don’t say that, not now, not ever.”
“Women don’t know sh*t (about football)! Numbers… how many women play football or truly follow it if they don’t have to report on it”
Women of all colors, religious background, and socio-economic status have always had to “prove” themselves in the work place. Excusing Cam Newton on this particular subject would be wrong because it highlights that even someone as woke as Cam, and as much of a pillar in his community can make a sexist comment.
Perhaps more devastating about it is the hurry to shrug it off or dismiss it. That mindset is disturbing because it allows for the injustice of the divide in pay between women and men to be solidified.
Seeing the type of backlash a reporter got for doing her job by not only men but women is disturbing, some going as far as to say “Women don’t know sh*t (about football)! Numbers… how many women play football or truly follow it if they don’t have to report on it” – a friend who I wish to remain anonymous.
We have to get past this simple mindset that women cannot do what men can do, especially in the sports world. How can we truly hope and fight for equality when we degrade one another and constantly dismiss each other’s opinion the second we see that it is different or from our own or from someone we wouldn’t think would be interested in our job.
I too have been guilty, I will never pretend that I am a perfect human, but I strive each day to get better. Cam Newton, I’m sure does the same. Wednesday was a bad day and perhaps he just made an ill-timed joke, but there is no place for that, not in yours or my work place, not in the streets, not in the NFL.
We can say “lets take the politics out of sports!” but that’s hard to do when sports are the platform for equality and the beacon of hope for so many, even young girls.
Author – Mike Tipton (email@example.com ) is a graduate of Socorro High School and current UTEP student. He spent 3 years in the US Air Force and love to travel. Mike currently works at ESPN as a production assistant for ESPN Radio. He hopes to one day have his own local radio show in El Paso.