Column: Laughing at a reporter for doing her job is just wrong
During a press conference on Wednesday, Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton laughed at a question asked by a female reporter.
Charlotte Observer beat reporter, Jourdan Rodrigue, asked Newton about his teammate wide receiver Devin Funchess embracing the physicality of routes, and if he got enjoyment out of that. Newton laughed in response with, “It's funny to hear a female talk about routes like – it's funny,” according to ESPN.
Rodrigue went to Twitter expressing her feeling regarding the conference. According to her tweets, she spoke to Newton about her question afterwards and it only made things worse.
As a female sports reporter, I find this highly disrespectful and inappropriate. We’re in a new era of growing female sports journalist and some still tend to think that they cannot talk like male sports reporters.
In the past week, I have been to two media conferences where I interviewed coaches and players and I was the only female reporter at both conferences. Before attending, I got the comment of "don’t be intimidated with being the only girl there." Before they even made the comment, I was well aware that I would be the only female in the room but never would I feel intimidated by other men who do the same job as me.
I walked into the media room ready to take on the challenge. I did my job and not one person looked at me differently nor did a player disrespect my questioning because I’m female. This is the way it should be.
Just because I am a female and writing about sports does not make me any less than the men who work alongside me. Along with other female sports journalist, we understand what is going on and we are there to report it. We are doing our jobs on getting news out there and letting the fans know what is going on and that is exactly what Rodrigue did.
We do the same amount of research, if not more, to prove ourselves. We ask the similar challenging questions as the men – sometimes even more challenging.
It aggravates me when I hear players make sexist comments toward female sports reporters or when male fans mock them. They're not there to stare at the players or to stand there and look pretty. We are doing a job and that's that.
Hearing Newton laughing at that reporter angered me, but as well as other female sports reporters.
I'm not the only one who feels this way either, as the Association for Women in Sports Media went to Twitter to make a statement.
Joanne Gerstner, an MSU sports journalism professor, helped put together the statement made by AWSM regarding what they felt could've been done differently and what they expect from the player.
She believes that the comment didn't only focus on female reporters, but with Newton's past involving the media and doing odd things does not help him moving forward.
“It’s much more than just female journalists,” Gerstner said. I think it’s in general just disrespect of the media. ... We all reviewed what Cam did and we’re asking for a formal apology.”
While Newton laughed at the questions and made the remark, no other journalist in that room stood up to correct him for his comment nor did he apologize to her after he said it during their private conversation.
“The thing that a lot of us are talking about is that room of that press conference full of men and nobody stood up for that woman,” Gerstner said. “It’s uncommon for the reporters in that room who are, yes, male to stand up and say, ‘hey that’s not right you don’t treat another reporter like that.’”
Rodrigue’s fellow beat reporter Scott Fowler made a column in the Observer on Wednesday night talking about what happened in the conference and sticking up for his fellow reporter. He even mentioned that she knew more about certain plays in football than he did.
On Thursday afternoon, Newton was dropped by his sponsor Dannon yogurt due to his comment according to USA Today, who released the following statement.
“We are shocked and disheartened at the behavior and comments of Cam Newton towards Jourdan Rodrigue, which we perceive as sexist and disparaging to all women,” Michael Neuwirth, senior director of external communications for Dannon, said in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace. It's simply not O.K. to belittle anyone based on gender. We have shared our concerns with Cam and will no longer work with him.”
Newton's comments also resonated with some of my fellow female sports journalists on campus as well.
Alexis Downie, vice president of MSU's AWSM chapter and junior journalism major, felt the comment made by the Panthers’ quarterback was unacceptable and showed no respect.
“We are in an age where women understand sports just as much as any males do and his comment proved his ignorance to that,” Downie said. “I think what bothered me most was that he laughed before he said it, like the reporter was some kind of joke.”
For chapter president Cassi White, she feels disappointed, but there is one positive thing to take away from this situation.
“I think the positive thing to think about is that she has a huge support system of both men and women that were disappointed in what he has to say,” White said. “She’s yet another female that we, as aspiring female sports media members, have to look up to.”