The quarterback spent part of the night practicing with the wide receivers, and they all went to a Buffalo Wild Wings to hang out when they were finished. That’s where Elizabeth Lane, who plays tackle football for the Utah Falconz, first heard what Cam Newton had said.
“It’s funny,” the NFL star had chuckled when asked a question during a news conference last week, “to hear a female talk about routes.”
A thousand miles away, the remark stirred up mixed feelings for Lane. She’s a fan. She went to Auburn, where Newton had become a star quarterback, a collegiate national champion and the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Things would get more complicated when the Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue, the reporter who had asked Newton the question, had to apologize for racist remarks she once made on Twitter, and when Newton himself offered up an apology as the public backlash for his remarks grew.
“But we certainly have a lot to say about routes,” Lane said.
The Falconz quarterback, who is a physical therapist and a doctoral student when she is not on the gridiron, has played for seven years in Atlanta and Salt Lake City. Newton’s sexist comments were upsetting to her and her teammates.
“Sports don’t have a gender,” said Lexie Floor, who plays wide receiver and some cornerback for the Falconz. “I can run routes. I can catch. I’ve been religiously practicing the whole passing tree for four years.”
And the Falconz are good.
They went 11-0 this past season, winning their second straight Independent Women’s Football League title. The championship game was played last July at Cottonwood High School in front of a reported 2,000 fans.
“The roar — it was indescribable,” defensive back Sara Galica recalled.
The Falconz beat the Austin Yellow Jackets 35-18 that day.
“There’s no parade downtown for winning,” Lane said. “But we all went out and had a good time and ate some ribs and had a drink together and talked about how we’ll do it again next year.”
But even as gridiron champions, the Falconz too often find themselves having to stick up for women in sports.
According to the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, women’s sports only receive about 4 percent of all sport media coverage — despite the fact that about 40 percent of all sports participants are female.
The Falconz’s championship was not covered by The Salt Lake Tribune.
“People believe that men have more of an athletic nature, and so the media follows male sports way more in depth,” Floor said. “We’re just not being represented. It’s kind of a joke.”
After Newton’s remarks, one of Galica’s coworkers questioned the role of women as commentators in college football and the NFL.
“I want it to get to the point where it’s not weird,” she said. “It’s not weird when a male commentates on a WNBA game.”
On Sunday, as she does most Sundays in the fall, Galica got together with her sister and watch the day’s slate of NFL games.
She broke down situational football, the coverages and routes.
And she and her teammates will try to ask another question, too.
“What does it take,” Floor wondered, “to show people that we can play?”