Newton’s play defies one stereotype, but his words reinforce another

By Rob Vogt Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/18 23:13:39

In 2015, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was perhaps the NFL's biggest star, leading his team to a near-­perfect 15-1 regular season and an appearance in Super Bowl 50. Two years later, Newton is still a magnet for attention - for reasons that have little to do with football.

At an October 4 press conference, Newton was asked a seemingly innocuous question about route running by female reporter Jourdan Rodrigue. Newton responded, "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes," emphasizing the final word of his response like the punch line of a joke.

When no one laughed, Newton's ­affect changed from sneering to serious, and he immediately pivoted to a more legitimate response to the question. The damage was done, however, as local and national media outlets accused Newton of being at worst a sexist, at best an immature athlete who, even at the age of 28, still doesn't "get it."

Newton's response felt qualitatively different from his pouty departure from a post-Super Bowl 50 press conference. First of all, it reinforced an age-old stereotype that most people believed had largely fallen by the wayside: Female journalists have no place covering men's sports.

And Newton should be hyper-aware of the danger of such generalizing, given the age-old stereotype that black football players are incapable of playing quarterback and that they are simply "athletes" who lack the intellectual capabilities or traditional fundamental skills to serve as pocket passers. As ridiculous as that might sound in 2017, there are undoubtedly football fans who, although they know better than to say such a thing out loud, still believe it.

Many people were ready to forgive Newton after he showed up for the following week's game wearing a "Rosie the Riveter" pin - a bright, shiny object good enough to distract simple-minded fans from the sexist ­nature of his previous comments. But if Newton truly wants to eradicate the stereotype he faces as a black quarterback, a good first step would be respecting both the male and female media members who cover his team.

The author is a Chicago-based freelance writer.

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