CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton laughed and made light of a female reporter who asked about one of his teammates, saying it was “funny to hear a female” ask the question.
Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asked Newton during Wednesday’s news conference about wide receiver Devin Funchess embracing the physicality of routes and if Newton got enjoyment out of that.
Newton responded, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like — it’s funny.”
Panthers director of communications Steven Drummond said in a statement that he spoke with Newton and Rodrigue “and I know they had a conversation where he expressed regret for using those words. We strive as a department to make the environment for media comfortable for everyone covering the team.”
Rodrigue said in a statement that Newton did not apologize.
“This afternoon, I did my job as an NFL beat writer and asked Cam Newton a question about one of his receivers. I was dismayed by his response, which not only belittled me but countless other women before me and beside me who work in similar jobs,” Rodrigue said. “I sought Mr. Newton out as he left the locker room a few minutes later. He did not apologize for his comments.”
According to a Charlotte Observer report, Rodrigue asked Newton afterward whether he thought a woman couldn’t understand receiver routes.
“Newton said she wasn’t really seeing specific routes when watching the game, she was just seeing if somebody was open,” the Observer reported. “She argued that he didn’t know what she saw nor how hard she had studied football, and that maybe the two of them needed to have a deeper conversation.
“Newton said that maybe he should have said it was funny to hear ‘reporters’ talk about routes and that, if she actually did know about them, then she knew more than most reporters,” according to the Observer. “Then he gestured toward the locker room, still filled with her colleagues.”
Rodrigue, whom the Observer reported had introduced herself to Newton last October on her first day with the newspaper, asked him if he knew her name. Newton said he did not, according to the report.
“Jourdan Rodrigue, Charlotte Observer,” she said before walking away, according to the report.
Mike Persinger, the executive sports editor of the Observer, said Newton’s comments were “unfortunate and out of line.”
“The question Jourdan asked during the news conference was a good one, like countless other questions about football strategy and nuance she has asked in the course of doing her job,” Persinger said.
In a statement, the NFL said “the comments are just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists. They do not reflect the thinking of the league.”
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, league spokesman Joe Lockhart said the NFL has further plans to get involved in the situation.
Dannon, which had an endorsement deal with Newton through its Oikos yogurt, issued a statement Thursday that it would “no longer work with him.”
“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,” the statement read. “It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace. It’s simply not ok to belittle anyone based on gender.
“We have shared our concerns with Cam and will no longer work with him.”
Newton’s marketing agent, Carlos Fleming, told ESPN’s Darren Rovell that Dannon has not terminated the agreement and has no grounds to do so, and that the brand has advertising with Newton that is still running.
The Association for Women in Sports Media said in a statement that it “is very discouraged by Cam Newton’s disrespectful remarks and actions directed to a female reporter during today’s Carolina Panthers press conference. As a watchdog group, AWSM demands fair treatment and positive workplace environments for women working in sports media.”
The Pro Football Writers of America also condemned Newton’s comments, saying in a statement that he “crossed the line.”
Newton made headlines for his interaction with the media after the Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, when he cut short his session with reporters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.