Why Cam Newton, quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, made headlines for sexism. Our sports column American Pie.
Self-critical: quarterback Cam Newton Photo: ap
Cam Newton loves clothes. Suits in bright colors, extravagant patterns, big checks, small checks, strict ties and screeching bow ties, rhinestone-studded loafers and glasses that seem to have come from Elton John’s trove. And hats, always hats. Hats of all colors and shapes, cowboy hats and jaunty little hats, sometimes with a jaunty feather in the hatband.
When Newton, quarterback of the Caroline Panthers and one of the NFL’s biggest stars, steps off the team bus before a game and strides into the stadium’s catacombs, it’s no mere arrival, it’s an event. It was no different Sunday at the Panthers’ game in Detroit.
But this time Newton made not only a fashion statement, but above all a political one: the suit this time was comparatively muted and the hat in plain black. But what was interesting was what was stuck on the side of the hat: a sticker of "Rosie the Riveter." Rosie, the Riveter, is an invention of U.S. propaganda during World War II and stands for all the women who replaced those men fighting at the front in the armaments industry.
Meanwhile, the effigy of the woman in a bluesuit and headscarf showing off her biceps and saying "We can do it!" has become a feminist symbol. Wearing Rosie the Riveter into the stadium by her hat was Newton’s attempt to apologize for a sexist faux pas.
The 28-year-old had made fun of a female reporter during a press conference last week. When Jourdan Rodrigue of the local Charlotte Observer newspaper wanted to know how well a teammate of Newton’s kept the running lanes on the meticulously planned plays, the quarterback smiled and couldn’t help saying, "It’s funny to hear a woman talk about running lanes." Then he answered the question and the press conference went on as if nothing had happened.
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"A valuable lesson learned"
Afterward, the journalist tweeted that she "didn’t think it was funny" to know about running trails, but that it was her job. When the video clip with Newton’s dubious statement turned into a click monster, the outrage was great. Rodrigue’s female colleagues expressed their solidarity and reported similar experiences, and the food company Danone terminated Newton’s sponsorship contract. In the meantime, the sexism discussion even pushed professional football players protesting racism and their feud with President Trump out of the sports talk shows.
That sexism is widespread in football, arguably more widespread than in other sports, was no secret even before Newton’s retirement. Professionals are repeatedly arrested for domestic violence, but the league is often slow to respond to such cases: When Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beat up his then-fiancee in a Las Vegas elevator in 2014, there was first a public outcry and eventually a lockdown when surveillance video surfaced documenting the incident. And just two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars sparked a scandal when they denied three female journalists access to the locker room.
This time, public outrage was so unanimous that Newton’s universally demanded apology arrived after just a few days. In a video statement, the fashion-conscious star appeared contrite: "I learned a valuable lesson. And I hope other young people have learned something from this story: don’t be like me! Be better than me!"
Shitstorm and apology
A piece of advice that some fans did not take to heart. Reporter Rodrigue quickly found herself in the middle of a shitstorm, the mechanics of which were reminiscent of the Rainer Bruderle scandal: Just as Stern journalist Laura Himmelreich was once accused of scandalizing the incident for the sake of her own professional advancement.
When old tweets by the 25-year-old in which she makes racist jokes and uses the word "nigga" also surfaced, Jourdan Rodrigue also had to apologize. In the end, this story only knows losers – and the biggest could be the NFL, whose image has now received another dent in addition to the dispute with Donald Trump.