If anything more happens regarding the sexist remark made on Wednesday by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, it will happen at the club level.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said during a Thursday media briefing that “conversations” are happening within the Panthers organization.
“I don’t want to anticipate the league stepping in here,” Lockhart said.
That said, the league could do something, if it wanted to. Consider this portion of the Personal Conduct Policy: “We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character; we must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.”
While most of the specific prohibited actions under the policy refer to criminal misconduct, the final entry represents a catch-all category that could, in theory, apply: “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL personnel.”
“Everyone on this call knows the level of sophistication of our sports journalists,” said Lockhart during the media briefing. “Gender plays no role at all in that. The statement [from Newton] was just wrong, and the people on this call know it is wrong because you have first-hand experience.”
It clearly was “wrong” in the sense that it was factually incorrect; however, it also was “wrong” in the sense that it was inappropriate. Tracking the language of the conduct policy, Newton failed to show respect by saying that it’s “funny” a female reporter would ask about pass routes, he did not conduct himself in a way that reflects favorably on himself, his team, the community he represents, or the NFL, and he undermined and put at risk the integrity of the league and his team.
I’m not saying Newton should be scrutinized under the Personal Conduct Policy, but given the deliberate breadth of it he could be. Lockhart made it clear that, at the league level, Newton won’t be.
At the team level, he could be disciplined in some way. Whether that happens remains to be seen.