Carolina Panthers quarterback injects comment into his answer to Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue about teammate Devin Funchess. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers quarterback injects comment into his answer to Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue about teammate Devin Funchess. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Business

One sponsor drops Cam Newton over sexist remarks as another condemns them

By Rick Rothacker And Katherine Peralta

rrothacker@charlotteobserver.com

October 05, 2017 12:25 PM

Yogurt maker Dannon said Thursday that it’s splitting with Carolina Panthers quarterback over “sexist” comments he made Wednesday to a Charlotte Observer reporter. Gatorade, another one of Newton’s sponsors, condemned the quarterback’s response but did not drop him.

At a news conference Wednesday, Newton said “it’s funny to hear a female talk about (wide receiver) routes” in response to a question from Jourdan Rodrigue, an Observer reporter who covers the Panthers. Soon after, those remarks were widely condemned as being sexist.

Newton has starred in TV commercials for Dannon’s Oikos Greek yogurt brand since 2015, part of a stable of endorsement deals that have helped make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid players. But his comments Wednesday caused consternation for some of the companies that have aligned with his superstar image.

“We are shocked and disheartened at the behavior and comments of Cam Newton towards Jourdan Rodrigue, which we perceive as sexist and disparaging to all women,” Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s senior director of external communications, said in a statement.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera responds to questions about Cam Newton's sexist comments

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera responds to a question about quarterback Cam Newton on Thursday during a press conference at Bank of America Stadium.

Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

“It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace. It’s simply not OK to belittle anyone based on gender. We have shared our concerns with Cam and will no longer work with him.”

Gatorade issues statement on endorser Cam Newton: pic.twitter.com/OW8RqBrjfV

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 5, 2017

Carlos Fleming, Newton’s marketing agent, told the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Dannon “has not terminated the agreement, nor do they have grounds to.” Fleming could not immediately be reached for comment by the Observer.

Dannon’s Neuwirth later added that the company’s agreement with Newton had not been terminated but said the yogurt maker would “no longer work with him” and was removing advertising with him in it.

Later in the day, Gatorade called Newton’s remarks “objectionable and disrespectful,” according to ESPN reporter Darren Rovell. The beverage maker did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s not unusual for sponsors to distance themselves from professional athletes over a controversial issue. Four sponsors, for instance, dropped former Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte after he tried to pass off a drunken incident as an armed robbery after the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Panthers Rivera working to keep team focused in "trying times"

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera says that he is working to keep the team focused following the rash of recent events nationally and internationally, including Cam Newton's sexist comments, a shooting in Las Vegas and National Anthem Protests.

Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

According to a Forbes report last month, Newton was the NFL’s second-highest-paid player in 2017, making $23.7 million from the Panthers and $11 million from endorsements, appearances and other off-field sources. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, was the highest-paid player at $52.5 million, mostly due to a $50 million signing bonus in his new contract.

Beyond Dannon, Newton has endorsement deals with Under Armour and Beats by Dre. Neither could immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Newton also had a deal with Belk, the Charlotte retailer that carries his fashion line. A spokesman said the contract ended in January, and there are no plans to renew it.

In January 2015, with Dannon Oikos becoming the NFL’s official yogurt, the company said it wanted a “franchise quarterback” to spearhead its marketing efforts. The company picked Newton as the team was amid its run to the Super Bowl.

“Cam was the top of our list, and we were thrilled that he was available and interested,” Neuwirth said at the time.

Newton at the time said Oikos was “right up my alley – not only because of its nutritional benefits, but because it tastes good, too.”

Cam Newton’s marketing agent Carlos Fleming says Dannon “is still using Cam Newton in advertising.” So, what does this mean? “Ask them.”

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 5, 2017

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