On Wednesday of last week, Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton reacted to a female reporter, Jourdan Rodrigue, with a complete lack of respect.
After Rodrigue asked a question about a receiver’s routes, Newton, in part, responded with a giggle as he said, “It's funny to hear a female talk about routes like -- it's funny.''
He wasn’t being a comedian. He was being sexist. Consequently, he received national criticism and lost a lucrative endorsement deal. As my blood boiled and my fingers began ferociously attacking my computer’s keyboard, I was taken aback when the reporter was outed for posting racist tweets four to five years ago.
In December of 2012, she tweeted: “My dad is being super racist as we pass through Navajo land.”
And in August 2013, she tweeted: “He’s the best. Racist jokes the whole drive home.”
Then in May 2013, Rodrigue quoted a Twitter parody account: “The earth moves at 450+ mph that’s 10 times triller than NASCAR Dale Earnhart’s (sic) a b---- n—.”
For a moment, it was hard to tell who was the victim and who was the villain. But as I thought about it, it became quite apparent.
Rodrigue is obviously a white female and Newton is a black male. While they seem to exist in two different worlds, they actually have a lot more in common than what initially meets the eye.
Sexism is real and pervasive in this country, as women are in constant battle for equal pay and equal opportunity for advancement. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. For women in male-dominated industries like sports, the inequalities appear to be even greater.
According the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, 90 percent of sports editors are white and 90 percent are male. The study says the numbers would be even more off balance if it wasn’t for ESPN’s initiative to diversify their staff.
In terms of racism, I can’t tell you that I have first-hand experience in the way that I do as a woman working in a male-dominated industry, but I can most certainly tell you that racism exists and the statistics support my conviction. According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data, in 2010 White Americans held more than 88 percent of the country’s wealth though they made up 64 percent of the population. In contrast, black Americans held 2.7 percent of the country’s wealth, despite making up 13 percent of the population. And according to a Department of Education report, as early as preschool black students are punished more frequently, and more severely for infractions than white students.
In sports, black quarterbacks have come a long way. Cam Newton is one of less than 10 starting black quarterbacks in the NFL. Despite being in existence since 1925, the New York Giants have never started a black quarterback. And there are many other teams whose history of black starting quarterbacks is extremely limited. Warren Moon is the only African American quarterback in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, as there was a point in time where there was a widespread sentiment that blacks athletes didn't have the leadership abilities or intellect to run an offense.
In the case of Newton and Rodrigue, we’ve butted the two, along with their struggles, against each other. Many view sexism and racism as completely separate problems, but in reality, they are part of the same family. “Sexism” and “Racism” are like siblings, whose last name is “discrimination.” Discrimination is a social ill that plagues our society in myriad ways. Racism and sexism are both wrong and perpetuated by ignorance and hate.
The clash of Rodrigue and Newton represents a greater problem that those fighting against discrimination possess. All too often, we stand for just ourselves, as opposed to also standing for each other. Women’s rights can’t be a female issue. Civil rights should not be a problem for just black Americans and gay rights should not be left to the LGBTQ community to fight alone. People need to support people. Whether it be sexism, racism or any other form of inequality, everyone must take a stand, or in some cases, a knee, to eliminate all discrimination. And until people like Newton and Rodrigue, who are both victims and villains in last week’s situation, realize they are fighting the same opponent, we will continue to have people throwing punches at those that should share their same corner.