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Newton’s fumble against women
'Sweetheart' remark almost too dumb for words
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 2:22 pm
by Herbert L. White

Cam Newton compounded a bad day with a serious mistake after Sunday’s loss to Dallas. He called a woman reporter “sweetheart,” a professional faux pas that showed a lack of understanding of his role as a professional athlete and a man. What’s even worse is he said that to a black woman, Post correspondent Cheris Hodges, who asked Newton how the Panthers should fix their balky offense.

Herbert L. White

Bad move, Cameron, but like folks are fond of saying, this is a teachable moment.

The message Newton sent, whether he realizes it or not, is that women shouldn’t challenge the male superiority. If a woman he cares for – mother, niece, or aunt – were addressed in a similar manner, I’m betting someone would get an earful of resentment, if not straight jacked out of his cleats. And rightfully so, because “sweetheart” is a term of endearment for people we know and love. Heck, even reporters use it in that way. I just don’t understand why a random stranger – an NFL quarterback in this instance – doesn’t know better.

Even if you give Newton, 23, a pass because of his youth or the tried and true “boys will be boys,” it’s totally inexcusable. He doesn’t know Hodges, whom I’ve worked with in varying capacities since she was an intern at The Post in 1999. She’s worked at daily and weekly publications in North Carolina and Georgia and is an accomplished novelist to boot. I don’t know what was on Newton’s mind, but suffice it to say his lips forgot all about decorum.

Why would you say something that dumb to someone who’s doing her job, just like the men in the press conference, and the athlete doing his?

The episode reminds me of the strides women reporters have made and the knuckle-dragging mindset they have yet to negotiate when it comes to dealing with men in the athletic arena. I’ve covered sports in Charlotte since 1986, before the Panthers and and NBA Hornets or Bobcats arrived. I’ve seen a thing or two about how athletes, coaches and administrators treat reporters, and the treatment afforded women.

Too often, they’re pooh-poohed or talked down to – hence the “sweetheart” – despite their credentials. Of course, I’ve seen their male colleagues get in on the act, grousing that women don’t belong in the press box, locker room or in front of the TV while the gladiators are going at it. Or the insinuation that the only reason women are in the locker room is to check out the boys’ um, manly parts.

Trust and believe, someone is vouching for that reporter because of his or her journalistic skill. They’ve earned the right to ask any question they see fit. Of course, we don’t always make the most insightful queries, but that’s another column.

Be demure, dummy up and don’t get in our way, some boys insist. It’s about time they grew up. Those days are long gone, and those women are going to be around for awhile.


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