Eight or nine years ago, my college football team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, played the Auburn Tigers in what was a pretty big game at the time. The Razorbacks were good that year, but I didn’t realize until I saw Cam Newton that they didn’t have a chance in hell of winning that game. Cam Newton was a man among boys out there. I specifically remember one play in which Newton was running downfield and three Razorback players jumped on him and he carried them downfield on his back for a good 10 yards. It was unreal.
I don’t know why that endeared Newton to me, but it did, and I found him all the more endearing because every kid in my now home state of Maine who is not a Tom Brady fan is a Cam Newton fan. Kids love this guy, and up until yesterday, he never really gave them a reason not to.
And then this happened:
That’s not a cool thing to say at all. It’s pretty shitty, in fact.
Today, Dannon dropped Cam Newton as a spokesperson for the yogurt maker.
Social media kind of lost its shit over it, blaming feminist backlash and fake outrage. Here’s a particularly unpleasant reaction from human douche chill Michael Rapaport.
But the biggest trend among social media reactions is, «But what about?» As in, «But what about the President, who grabs women by the p*ssy?» Or, «what about all the NFL players who have assaulted their wives?» Or, «What about Ray Lewis, who murdered someone (allegedly)»? What about Ben Roethlisberger? Or even «What about the racist comments the female reporter, Jourdan Rodriguez, made on Twitter four years ago?»
OK, and … ? What about those things? They’re terrible. Awful. Roethlisberger shouldn’t be playing in the NFL. Players who assault women should be kicked out of the league. President Trump should not be the leader of his country. Jourdan Rodriguez should not have made those comments (she has since apologized).
None of that changes the fact that Cam Newton shouldn’t have laughed at the idea of a female sports reporter asking about routes. Just because our President grabs women by the crotch doesn’t mean that the rest of us can make untoward sexual comments at our co-workers. One worser evil does not erase a lesser one.
Also, Dannon Yogurt doesn’t represent Trump. Dannon Yogurt doesn’t have Ben Roethlisberger as a spokesperson, and Dannon Yogurt does not employ Jourdan Rodriguez. But they do pay Cam Newton, and if they feel that his comments harm their brand, they have every right to cut ties with him, regardless of all the awful things other players and politicians have done.
Now, if the NFL had suspended Cam Newton for six games for making the shitty comments when players who beat up women also only got suspended for six games, well, yes: That’s a shitty double standard. But that’s not what happened. Here, the NFL wisely apologized and said that Newton’s comments did not reflect the values of the NFL. Newton is going to get a few bad days of press, and hopefully, he’ll learn to treat female reporters with more respect. In the meantime, he’s still gonna make millions of dollars under his contract with the Panthers.
Holding Newton accountable does not erase all those other terrible things. It also doesn’t make the NFL any less racist (in fact, many of the criticisms leveled at Newton on social media are less about what he said and more about who he is and the color of his skin). But you still can’t make a problem disappear with a bunch of «what abouts?» If my daughter kicked my son in the stomach because he called her a stupid head, I’m not going to ignore the fact that he called he a stupid head just because her reaction was to kick him in the stomach. I’m going to punish them accordingly by yelling at my son for calling his sister names and sending his sister to her room for being violent.
Of course, on the other hand, I couldn’t help the fact that social media would treat both sins equally — that’s just the nature of social media. It has one volume: Really fucking loud.