If you're reading this, you probably know that Cam Newton laughed at a female reporter's question during a press conference -- and that he lost a major sponsor, Dannon, as a result. Oikos (part of the Dannon company) said in a statement, "It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace."
A little background. On Sunday, Panther receiver Devin Funchess had seven catches against the Patriots, two for touchdowns. During the press conference after the game, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer asked this question:
Cam, I know you take a lot of pride in seeing your receivers play well. Devin Funchess has seemed to really embrace the physicality of his routes and getting those extra yards. Does that give you a little bit of enjoyment to see him kind of truck-sticking people out there?
So how did Cam respond?
Yep. He chuckled and said, "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes, like ... It's funny."
What's too bad is that the rest of his answer is solid. He praises Funchess. He talks about his growth as a player. He recognizes his hard work and preparation. He compliments the Panther coaches.
It's good stuff. Not an in-depth analysis of the routes Funchess ran, about adjustments he made, about the game plan Panther coaches devised, but still: Positive words about players and coaches, giving credit where credit is due.
But all that was overshadowed -- rightly so -- by the first part of his response.
And so, as these things always go, yesterday Newton apologized.
The first part of his apology sounds scripted or rehearsed. (I don't know whether it actually was; I'm just saying that to me, it sounds like something written for him.)
After careful thought, I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women. To be honest, that wasn't my intention. If you are a person who took offense to what I said, I sincerely apologize to you.
But then he pauses, and appears to speak more candidly.
I'm a man who tries to be a positive role model in my community and use my platform to inspire others. I take ownership to everything that comes with that, and what I did was extremely unacceptable.
I'm a father to two beautiful daughters, and at their age I try to instill in them that they can do and be anything that they want to be. During this whole process, I've already lost sponsors and countless fans, and I realize that the joke is really on me. 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, the super-moms, to the daughters, the sisters, and women all around the world, I sincerely apologize and hope that you can find the kindness in your heart to forgive me.
He doesn't shift the blame. He doesn't make excuses. He doesn't say his words were taken out of context. Instead of looking for sympathy or playing the victim (as many do), he simply takes responsibility for what he said.
Of course that doesn't excuse what he said. I'm not saying that -- at all. If your opinion of Newton is forever set, or changed, by what he said, that's up to you.
What I am saying is that Newton's apology makes an important point.
We all make mistakes. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support.
When that happens, say you're sorry.
And never follow your apology with a disclaimer like "But I was really mad, because ..." or "But I did think you were ..." or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
Say you're sorry, say why you're sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more.
Will Newton's apology make people feel differently about him? For some, yes. For others, no.
Either way, Newton shows that sometimes it is possible to get things very wrong, and in other instances, pretty right.
Which makes him just like the rest of us.
Once you do something stupid, you can't take it back, but you can say you're sorry, and you can learn from it.