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Cam Newton aims derogatory comment at Cronkite alumna

Cronkite students and faculty react to sexism in the sports journalism industry

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ASU students walk past the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the Downtown Phoenix campus on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.

Jourdan Rodrigue, a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication alumna and Carolina Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer, asked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a question during the team's Wednesday news conference. 

His response has stirred up controversy.

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

He proceeded to answer her question and initially offered no formal apology for the remark. He released an apology video on Twitter Thursday night. 

After the event, Rodrigue tweeted she did not find women asking questions about routes to be funny and that it is her job.

Since the incident, yogurt company Dannon has dropped Newton’s endorsement deal. A statement from Michael Neuwirth, a spokesman for the company, said that Newton’s comments are “entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in the workplace.” 

Rodrigue graduated from the Cronkite school in 2014 with a degree in journalism and mass communication.

Gregory Boeck, a faculty associate at Cronkite, taught Rodrigue in two of his classes during her time here.

“I talked to (Rodrigue) last night after I heard about it,” Boeck said. “She said that she did OK because she was prepared. By going through the Cronkite school, she actually learned how to deal with this, and she told me that as she was going through it, she thought back to what we had taught her.”

Boeck said he wasn't surprised at Rodrigue's response on Twitter, adding that she is "a strong young lady."

“We teach our students, especially our female students, how to react to oppressive male athletes,” Boeck said. “She could’ve handled this without our instruction.”

Paola Boivin, a professor of practice at Cronkite and award-winning sports columnist, said she was impressed by how Rodrigue reacted.

“I was blown away by her measuredness and response to it, because honestly I don’t know if at her age I would’ve had the poise to handle it the way she did,” Boivin said.

Boivin said Wednesday’s events have created a learning opportunity for students studying sports journalism and that a conversation has already taken place about it.

“Frankly, it had some teachable moments for us too...,” Boivin said. “There’s so much optimism and promise that surrounds Cronkite, and this is just what’s happening in the real world still.”

Boeck, who currently teaches sports reporting to sophomores and juniors, said that he too has already used Rodrigue’s situation as a topic of discussion with his class Thursday morning. 

Amanda Whitaker, a senior majoring in broadcast sports journalism, was “shocked” by Newton’s comment and his “condescending” facial expressions.

“I’ve been hearing people say, ‘oh, maybe it’s the first time he’s ever heard a girl talk about routes.’ Well, if that is what he intended, why didn’t he say that?” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said she wouldn't know how to react if she were put in Rodrigue's situation. 

"I’m not going to stop just because some athlete made a silly comment," Whitaker said. "That does happen, unfortunately, and I hate to say this, but I’m going to have to deal with that from time to time even though I shouldn’t have to.”

Boivin said she has been encouraged by many of the reactions people have had, and she hopes for this to start a conversation about women in sports journalism.

“I hope this provokes some healthy dialogue,” Boivin said. “I understand that there are people who have different opinions about women in sports journalism, and they don’t understand things about it, whether it’s (a woman’s) knowledge or their locker room presence. Let’s just talk about it.”

Rodrigue did not respond to The State Press for comment.

A previous version of this article misspelled Rodrigue's name. A correction has been made to reflect the change.

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