Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton thought it was funny to hear a woman sports writer ask a question about route-running during a press conference this week. "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes," he said, grinning. Here's what I think is funny: Seeing Newton then post a near-2-minute apology on social media that did not once mention by name Jourdan Rodrigue, the Charlotte Observer reporter he belittled.
That made it sound and seem like generic by-the-numbers regret, motivated by backlash and lost sponsors, more than a genuine apology to her. I believe Newton's initial remark was off-the-cuff, thoughtless, extremely condescending, but probably borne of immaturity more than blatant misogyny. I give him that benefit of doubt. In any case, everybody, in any workplace, deserves better than to be marginalized and prejudged and endure a hostile environment.
Is it not 2017? Can you imagine if a white quarterback had belittled a black reporter's question based on his race? I draw little distinction between that and a QB belittling a woman's question based on her gender. This is the mindset that has its seed in schoolyard bullying. I thought we were blessedly past the days of yore when some male athletes -- and isn’t this the epitome of testosterone-driven ego! -- thought women sports writers were in the lockerroom to ogle rather than just trying to do their job on a level playing field with their male counterparts.
Rodrigue, 25, whom I have not met, is not perfect. She has had to apologize for Twitter remarks made in 2013-14, while in college, that seemed to make light of racist remarks, including once re-Tweeting a racial slur. But let that not obfuscate what has her in the news this week.
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Women sports writers deal with a lot of chauvinistic [bleep] for daring to work, and in many cases excel, in what used to be a male-dominated profession. I have known and learned from many female colleagues over the years, from Christine Brennan to Linda Robertson, Michelle Kaufman and Susan Miller Degnan. My experience has been that women sports writers tend to be diligent and professional to the extreme, out-working their male counterparts because they are put in a position to have to earn the respect of athletes that may be more freely given to men.
Most all of the women sports writers I know can tell you stories about the vulgar, sexist garbage they see directed at them that males do not. It is one thing for that garbage to come in a degrading, anonymous email or other cowardly rant. (#YouCantFixTheInternet). It certainly should not be coming from the very athletes they cover, least of all a star quarterback who is the face of the franchise and fans he just embarrassed.
Women reporters deserve better. Anyone simply trying to do their job does.