CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Thursday said quarterback Cam Newton “made a mistake” when the 2015 NFL MVP made light of a female reporter for asking a serious football 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 laughed and responded, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like … it’s funny.”
“I think Cam made a mistake,” Rivera said. “I understand he had a conversation where he pretty much said he shouldn’t have said what he said. As far as I’m concerned, what I’d like to do is talk about the Detroit Lions, who we play on Sunday.”
The team issued a statement on Wednesday saying Newton and Rodrigue talked and Newton showed “regret” for making the comment. Rodrigue said in her own statement that the situation got worse when she confronted Newton and there was no apology.
No further statement has come from the team other than Rivera’s comments at his daily press conference.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Dannon Oikos yogurt, one of several companies Newton represents in commercials, announced it was “shocked and disheartened” over Newton’s remarks and no longer would work with the quarterback.
Also on Thursday, Rodrigue tweeted an apology for several “offensive tweets” she posted in 2013 that had racial connotations. She did not say specifically which tweets she was referring to.
Charlotte Observer executive sports editor Mike Persinger said that Rodrigue’s apology on Twitter would be the only comments.
Carolina players chose to stay focused on Sunday’s game against the 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 outside linebacker and team captain Thomas Davis. “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 we’ll remain focused on Detroit.”
Rivera said he talked to his players on Thursday about staying focused while dealing with off-the-field issues such as Newton’s comment, the 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.”
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