The Cam Newton/Jourdan Rodrigue story did what these stories are supposed to do -- go supernova, explode, and then leave a quiet dead spot in the universe.
And did so in less than a day.
You know the particulars -- Rodrigue, the Charlotte Observer writer and Carolina Panthers beat writer, asked Newton a fairly innocuous question about receiver Devin Funchess which Newton turned into a snippy pejorative of women, sportswriters and women sportswriters. Since then, someone deep-dove Rodrigue’s Twitter account and found her laughing at racist references (she apologized) and Dannon Yogurt dropped Newton as a spokesman in part because he didn’t (apologize, that is).
The clear takeaways are that Newton’s retrograde position on women in the business of sports was and is a public relations disaster, that Rodrigue’s weakness (her Twitter game) will become the secondary reasoning for Newton’s defenders, and that apologies remain the major way we as a culture measure someone’s ability to overcome an error in judgment (at best) and/or a sexism-racism debate (at worst).
And here’s the weirdest part of this very weird story. It was all over a simple question about Funchess that required only -- and I do mean ONLY -- that Newton pay compliment to one of his wide receivers.
The question was not accusatory in nature, or suggested some sort of shortcoming in either player. It wasn’t delving into team secrets or putting the Panthers in some sort of competitive disadvantage. Even if it was, the response Newton gave would be wrong, but in this case it was wrong for no good reason.
This will bear repeating as he eventually delivers the team-written apology, and when his agent scares up his next endorsement after the heat from the Dannon folks dissipates. Newton lost much by giving an answer to a question that had no risk at all and was even providing praise for a teammate.
And whether Funchess needs that or not is not relevant. Maybe his parents or friends or partner would have enjoyed it. Maybe he becomes a quick five-minute throwaway on one of the endlessly tedious and tediously endless midweek shows that gets him a bit of notice.
But Newton needed to be too clever by half and too contemptuous by double – FOR NO GAIN WHATSOEVER. NONE.
So while his views of women in sports are clearly problematic (and that’s giving him all the best of it, let’s be honest), it is the time and place and circumstances here that actually make this worse than he’s already been called. He became a talking point (which is about as bad as things get these days) because he couldn’t form the phrase, “Yes, Devin Funchess is a quite a help to me and all of us.”
Unbelievable. And yet completely believable.