The Carolina Panthers quarterback is one of the most prominent football players sponsored by the sports apparel and footwear maker. Two months ago, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank highlighted Newton’s signature training shoe as a key product in the brand’s rebound from two straight quarterly losses.
Last year, the 2015-2016 NFL MVP sported limited-edition, Under Armour-designed gold cleats during pregame warm-ups in the Super Bowl. He followed that up by appearing in the brand’s footwear campaign, “It Comes From Below,” as well as in a spinoff game on Snapchat, where players could lead him through obstacles while sprinting through a dark forest.
Newton found himself facing a real-life obstacle Wednesday — widespread criticism for his response to a question that Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue posed during a news conference. She asked for his thoughts about wide receiver Devin Funchess' route running. Before answering, Newton laughed and said, “It's funny to hear a female talk about routes. It's funny."
In a statement released Wednesday, the NFL called the comments “just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists who cover our league. They do not reflect the thinking of the league."
The comments come at a time when Under Armour is heavily courting women. The brand did not comment publicly on the turn of events. But sources said the company kept in contact with Newton and his agent, knew the athlete regretted his words and supported his decision to offer an apology.
On Thursday night, Newton posted a video on Twitter, saying he tries to instill in his two daughters that they can do and be anything they want to be.
“After careful thought, I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women,” Newton said. “To be honest, that was not my intention. If you are a person who took offense to what I said, I sincerely apologize to you.”
He went on to say that he has already lost sponsors and countless fans and that “the joke is really on me. I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this.”
The apology came too late for sponsor Dannon, which makes Oikos yogurt and said it found his comments sexist and disparaging to women. Newton is also sponsored by Gatorade and Beats by Dre.
“It's simply not OK to belittle anyone based on gender,” Dannon said in a statement. “We have shared our concerns with Cam and will no longer work with him.”