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Why You Shouldn’t Take Cam Newton’s Apology Seriously

His apology isn’t resonating with at least one expert observer.

Image via Cam Newton/Facebook.

The last 48 hours have been a roller coaster for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and anyone paying attention to him.


The NFL star caused an enormous controversy Wednesday with his shockingly sexist remarks to a female journalist who asked him a question during a press conference. On Thursday night, Newton issued an apology video through his official Facebook and Twitter accounts. Though some felt the apology was sincere, it had the hallmarks of a professionally crafted public relations apology, leaning on the trope of “apologizing” to “anyone who was offended” by the action rather than apologizing for the action itself.

“After careful thought, I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women,” Newton says in his apology video, lowering his head in an apparent sign of contrition. After insisting that this wasn’t at all what he intended, Newton essentially disowns his own culpability, adding, “If you were a person who took offense to what I said, I sincerely apologize to you.”

Newton then goes on to applaud himself for his work in the community, being a great dad and then bemoaning his lost corporate sponsorship money before wrapping up with a seemingly sincere request for forgiveness from women and fans everywhere.

Oh, and that reporter who was the direct target of Newton’s sexism? She says she still hasn’t received any kind of apology. Though she has bigger problems of her own to deal with now. The reporter’s own previous racist comments on Twitter will give Newton an extra pass since he has himself been the target of racially insensitive comments and questions from the media.

But back to that half-hearted apology.

From politicians to celebrities and athletes, the “if you took offense” apology has become an all-too-common way of circumventing outright responsibility for a wrongful act. Writing in Psychology Today, Suffolk University’s Beverly Flaxington explains that such techniques “fall into what might be termed as the passive-aggressive category – you know the person is hurt, you know you did something to contribute to it, but you don’t really feel compelled to own it.”

And while this may technically get Newton off the hook with the media and many in social media, there is at least one critic who isn’t having it.

In a video that has quickly gone viral, one young football fan takes Newton down a notch. And it doesn’t hurt that her team, the Philadelphia Eagles, is playing Newton’s team Thursday, Oct. 12. From the video:

“OK, Cam, pay attention because I’m only going to say this once,” the unnamed girl says. She then outlines different offensive passing routes to show her football expertise before asking Newton, “Cam, why do you wear the same clothes as my grandma? That’s weird.”

After explaining a few more routes, she drops the proverbial mic, deadpanning, “You know, I think real boys fall on the football,” a reference to Newton losing a pivotal game with a costly turnover.

Sports
via David Leavitt / Twitter

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