‘What’s six times nine plus six plus nine?’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As his team readies for yet another NFL Super Bowl appearance on Sunday, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with an unwelcome #MeToo distraction over a lewd remark he made to a female reporter.
In a freewheeling interview for the opening-night media event on Monday, “Gronk,” who is known for his puerile behavior and an affinity for the number 69, singled out a female reporter who, he claimed, knew his favorite number. The phrase is common slang for a sexual position.
Without mentioning it, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski talks about his favorite number pic.twitter.com/9hDYievadt
— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) January 29, 2019
To ensure the punchline wasn’t lost to subtlety, Gronkowski later doubled down on the attempt at humor later by offering a math problem:
“What’s six times nine plus six plus nine?” he asked.
Although the immature joke originally came in response to a question asking about the percentage likelihood of his retiring at the end of the season, the remark seemed to catch some reporters off guard.
Sports commentators on WFAN’s “Carlin, Maggie and Bart” show tore into Gronkowski on Tuesday, saying he crossed the line.
“I think there has been a pass that’s been given to Rob Gronkowski for a really long time,” said cohost Maggie Gray. “I think part of the pass that he gets comes with the fact he is doing this and really doesn’t have anything in his past or in his private life that would indicate he actually has an issue. It just seems like an act.”
Not surprisingly, the outrage was amplified in the Twittersphere, where at least one user invoked the #MeToo movement and demanded a suspension, reported Fox News.
@MGolicJR57 if you REALY want the #MeToo movement to have a second wave that will have a lasting impact? Suspend @RobGronkowski for what he said to the female reporter about what his favorite number is. Great football player, complete idiot, not cool. Apologize or don’t play
— Dr. Fun (@Dr_Fun7718) January 30, 2019
Others however, seemed unfazed, pointing to a tradition of juvenile pranks and general lighthearted tone of the opening night, during which a student reporter also invited Gronkowski to attend a fraternity party.
Gronkowski himself retweeted a story that made reference to the “69” comments among the “Gronk-iest Moments” of the event.
Having some fun in the ATLhttps://t.co/nbSlKCvKfK
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) January 30, 2019
The #MeToo movement has succeeded in bringing about the downfall of many men in positions of power, many of whom, like alleged serial rapist Harvey Weinstein and alleged pedophile Kevin Spacey, were considered open secrets in their industry circles.
While the movement has had a wide-ranging impact on the Hollywood film industry, politics and journalism, it has yet to reach professional sports like football where a culture of “toxic masculinity” has historically pervaded.
However, as it confronts many other social changes and political challenges, most notably its anthem-kneeling controversy, the NFL has been under pressure to hold players accountable for abusive behavior.
The Kansas City Chiefs, one of the top contenders for this year’s Super Bowl, were forced to release star running back Kareem Hunt in November after video surfaced of him beating a woman in a hotel hallway.