I stood on the court at the WNBA Finals, a day after the Sparks chose to remain in the locker room for the playing of the national anthem, waiting to talk to Candace Parker.
Parker, I heard, was one of the players who wanted to stand during the anthem. But the team couldn’t reach a consensus — sit, stand, lock arms or kneel — so they remained in the locker room.
I asked Parker her opinion on the issue.
The question was followed by a few moments of silence, a pause that grew uncomfortable — a white woman, asking a black woman, about equality, injustices, and her stance on a very personal issue — an issue that I will never fully understand.
Parker said she wanted to stand to honor America, a place she loves.
Then she paused again, searching for words.
Some people are talking out both sides of their mouth, Parker said. Everyone wants equality, but only on their terms.
As I sat inside the Rams media room Wednesday, my second season covering the NFL after six years covering college football, MLB, the NBA, and just about every sport in between, video of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton came across my social media feed.
“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said, responding to a question from Charlotte-Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue. Newton smirked, chuckled and rolled his head back, “It’s funny,” he said again, before answering the question.
Newton’s expression was worth a thousand words, but here are three: Patronizing, disrespectful and disgusting.
It wasn’t just that he dissed Rodrigue, a female reporter who in 2017 doesn’t need to prove that she can talk or write about football any more than her male counterparts.
The worst part about Newton’s remark was he undermined the larger fight in this country, the one NFL players have brought to the forefront: Equality.
It’s for everyone. Every race, gender and sexual orientation.
I, for one, have been listening. The daughter of a police officer now in his 47th year and the sister of an officer in Year 13, these conversations have struck a chord, upsetting at times, but still, I listen. Others have been listening too.
Newton just undermined the cause. For me, it’s not about my football knowledge being questioned: I’ll be fine. So will Rodrigue, along with the countless other women in the industry.
But when it comes to the much-needed discussion about equality, equality for everyone, Newton’s comment will sting for a long time.
Maybe Newton just slipped, something everyone is susceptible to. But the follow-up conversation between Newton and Rodrigue, which Rodrigue said wasn’t recorded, doesn’t suggest that Newton felt any remorse for the comments.
After a year around the team Newton doesn’t even know Rodrigue’s name, she said. It’s a simple principle, really. If you spend a year working in close proximity to someone, you learn their name.
It’s not just a player-versus-reporter thing, it’s called being-a-decent-human thing.
And it’s not always easy — I spent an entire season asking Todd Gurley why he couldn’t run the football.
But Gurley showed up on Day 1 of training camp this season, “Hi Lindsey,” he said.
“Hey Todd,” I replied.
Newton finally apologized in a video posted to his social media account late Thursday. Parts of it seemed sincere. Others rang hollow.
Maybe further down the road, Newton’s actions will prove he gets it.
And maybe then, he can show up on Sundays, speak out for equality, and make a positive impact.
In the meantime, Newton is just another person speaking out of both sides of his mouth.