COLUMN: Cam Newton’s comments reflect the sexism problem in sports journalism


“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.”

Some online troll didn’t say it.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said this to Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue during a press conference.

She asked a straightforward question about wide receiver Devin Funchess and his passing routes.

Rodrigue later tweeted, “I don’t think it’s ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job.”

Newton was rightfully admonished on social media and in the press for his sexist comments, and even though he later gave a public apology, his private conversation with Rodrigue was anything but.

When Rodrigue confronted Newton after the press conference he did not apologize. He instead questioned her ability to know passing routes.

It’s her job to know. She wouldn’t have her job title if she wasn’t qualified and didn’t understand the game.

How could he have thought it was ok to say those things?

Unfortunately, his comments reflect the larger, more pervasive sexism in sports journalism.

This problem is nothing new.

In 1977, Sports Illustrated writer Mellissa Ludtke was denied access to the locker room during the World Series for being a woman. She sued the Major League Baseball commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, and won. Her case established equal access for women in MLB locker rooms.

In 1990, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris said in regards to being interviewed by women, “I don’t talk to women when I am naked unless they are on top of me.”

In 1990, Lisa Olson, a Boston Herald reporter, was sexually harassed by several players making vulgar comments and gestures in the New England Patriots locker room.

Olson accused Zeke Mowatt, Robert Perryman and Michael Timpson of sexually harassing her. She sued the team and later settled.

Even though this was considered a watershed moment in sports journalism for women, the problem continues.

Today, it’s not just athletes — it’s the fans too.

Sarah Spain, an ESPN writer, once received a tweet from a male fan saying, “I hope your boyfriend beats you.”

Julie DiCaro from from Sports Illustrated once received “I hope you get raped again.”  

If I wanted to make note of every time a woman was harassed by fans or players, I’d never be able to end this column. The list of examples I could put are staggering.

I know if I received this kind of treatment, I wouldn’t continue in sports journalism.

The incredible thing is, women face it every day and persist.

Their goal is to do a job they love and instead are bashed by athletes and fans because of their gender.

Being verbally harassed based on your gender is awful and there’s not one clear way to fix this problem.

Society needs to change, athletes need to change and even the athletes’ sponsors need to change.

When athletes say something sexist or misogynistic, don’t be so quick to forgive them. Newton humiliated a journalist for asking a question.

His apology means nothing because his comments were never really about knowing routes.