Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Thursday night apologized via video on social media for what he called an “extremely degrading and disrespectful” choice of words in response to a female reporter’s question the day before.
The video came about nine hours after a spokesperson for Dannon Oikos Yogurt said the company no longer would use the 2015 NFL MVP in its commercials and advertisements and would begin pulling those immediately.
It also came after Carolina coach Ron Rivera said his quarterback “made a mistake” with his conduct.
Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asked Newton during Wednesday’s news conference about wide receiver Devin Funchess embracing the physicality of routes and whether Newton got enjoyment out of that.
Newton laughed and responded, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like … it’s funny.”
Rodrigue confronted Newton after the news conference, but he did not apologize, the reporter said in a statement Wednesday.
Newton never addressed Rodrigue by name in the video Thursday night.
“After careful thought, I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women,” he said. “And to be honest, that was not my intention. If you are a person who took offense to what I said, I sincerely apologize to you.
“I’m a man who tries to be a positive role model to my community and tries to use my platform to inspire others. I take ownership to everything that comes with that. What I did was extremely unacceptable.”
Newton noted that he has two daughters.
“At their age, I try to instill in them that they can do and be anything that they want to be,” he said. “The fact that during this process I’ve already lost sponsors and countless fans, I realized that the joke is really on me. And I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this. To the young people who see this, I hope that you learn something from this as well. Don’t be like me; be better than me.
“To the reporters, to the journalists, to the moms — super moms — to the daughters, the sisters and the women all around the world, I sincerely apologize and hope that you can find the kindness of your heart to forgive me. Thank you.”
The Panthers issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon saying Newton and Rodrigue spoke and that Newton showed “regret” for his comment.
Rodrigue tweeted that the situation got “worse” when she confronted Newton after his news conference and later said there was no apology. She later told the Observer that Newton didn’t know her name even though she had been on the beat for about a year.
Also on Thursday, Rodrigue tweeted an apology for what she termed “offensive tweets” posted on her account four to five years ago. Her paper, the Charlotte Observer, later elaborated the tweets were from 2012 and 2013 when Rodrigue was in college. In the tweets, she made light of others’ racist remarks and retweeted a racial epithet.
“The Twitter posts are regrettable and we wish they hadn’t happened,” Observer editor Sherry Chisenhall said. “We don’t condone the posts or the messages they convey. We believe Jourdan is deeply sincere in her apology and regret about those tweets.”
Carolina players chose to stay focused on Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. Many had not heard about Newton’s comments until Thursday.
“That’s something for Cam to deal with and you guys to deal with,” said Thomas Davis, an outside linebacker and team captain. “We weren’t there. We really don’t know what is happening. So we’re really focused in on Detroit. We can’t allow anything for us to be a distraction.”
Asked what it meant for the face of the organization to make such a comment, Davis said: “That says that’s something Cam is going to have to deal with you guys. He’s going to have to deal with that moving forward. I feel like it’s a situation he’s going to handle and he’s going to handle it well. But for us as a football team, we’ll remain focused on Detroit.”
Rivera said he talked to his players Thursday about staying focused while dealing with off-the-field issues such as Newton’s comment, the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the devastation from the hurricane in Puerto Rico.
“I said to the guys, there’s some issues out there we have to deal with,” Rivera said. “But be where your feet are. When you’re on the football field, be on the football field. When you’re in the meeting room, be in the meeting room. Try to maintain your focus and stay focused.
“These are trying times. I believe that and I understand that. There are some very serious issues out there, and this country has dealt with a lot of them lately, from the hurricane disasters to the very terrible incident in Las Vegas to this. These are all issues that are important.”