Opinion: Don’t let Cam Newton off the hook

Justin Cait

It’s not hard to tell when fall begins to settle in.

The cooler weather, change in foliage and (for reasons I still can’t explain) pumpkin spice craze all contribute as indicators that the autumnal season is upon us.

But the natural fall events aren’t the only pointers to a new season. Year after year, the National Football League (NFL) gains traction in the fall as well.

However, as of late, the NFL has been known for much more than just football.

Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that NFL players, coaches and even owners have joined in on taking a knee during the national anthem in a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial inequality.

The movement started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, and has spread throughout the league since.

For most, the movement lies on a fine line.

On one side you have those that want to bring attention to the deaths of black people at the hands of the law, and on other side, there is concern that supporting human rights in this regard also brings a level of disrespect to the United States flag and military as a whole.

The matter has been so prevalent in the media, that we sometimes lose touch with surrounding issues in the same sports realm.

In a press conference on Wednesday Oct. 4, Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asked a routine question to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Her inquiry dealt with wide receiver Devin Funchess’ ability to maintain composure while dealing with physicality amidst his routes.

“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said with a grin. “It’s funny.”

It only took nine words for Newton to let the world know how he really feels.

This wasn’t seconds after an emotional game. There was no animosity in the reporter’s question. Cam Newton was just caught red-handed being flat-out sexist. Other than owning up to it, there is no way to work around it.

Well, Newton did try to make right of the situation, claiming that his comments were simply a joke.

“It was a lesson learned for me this whole week,” Newton said after his team’s fourth win of the season on Sunday. “My sarcasm, trying to give somebody kind of a compliment, turned in ways I never would have even imagined.’’

While the NFL put out a brief statement condemning Newton’s actions, other major money makers have kept quiet.

Out of Newton’s many sponsors, — including Beats by Dre, Buick, Under Armour and more — only Gatorade/Pepsi Co. decided to condemn the incident, while Dannon Yogurt completely dropped Newton as a sponsor.

While Newton’s words were clearly unacceptable, it’s important that this incident doesn’t end up like so many within the NFL; disregarded.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was originally suspended for multiple accounts of domestic violence. He appealed and fans still cheer him on today. Now-Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson was briefly suspended for allegations for child abuse. He just signed a new contract worth $7 million.

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested on accounts of assault and domestic violence and owner Jerry Jones was still willing to sign him. In Colin Kaepernick’s case, despite the efforts to raise awareness for racial inequality, he remains without a team as a free agent.

In this situation it’s not racism and it’s not domestic violence, but the underlying concept of bringing attention to athletes at fault is important.

Cam Newton can’t be held unaccountable for his actions.

Instead of turning a blind eye to the situation, remember what is really going on beneath the facade of fireworks, pretty cheerleaders and die-hard fans. Sweeping controversy under the rug in hopes of a more entertaining, sports-filled Sunday afternoon is far looked over upon.

Like the many other issues within the NFL, this is something that will most likely be lost as soon as Newton shows a hint of athleticism in the upcoming week of football.

Newton’s answer to a female reporter was unacceptable and it should not be swept under the rug like other NFL issues.