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By Alex Johnson

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton apologized Thursday night for remarks to a female reporter that were widely denounced as sexist — and urged his young fans to "be better than me."

Oiko yogurt canceled a sponsorship deal the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner and even the National Football League slammed Newton, one of its most popular and recognizable stars, after he appeared to ridicule Jourdan Rodrigue, who covers the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer, on Wednesday.

When Rodrigue asked Newton at a news conference about the skill at running pass routes displayed by one of his wide receivers, Newton smirked and said: "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes. It’s funny."

Related: Cam Newton Puts Spotlight on the Sexism That Women Covering Sports Often Face

The NFL, echoing the responses of many journalism groups and sportswriters — both male and female — called the remarks "just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists who cover our league."

In a video he posted to Twitter on Thursday night, Newton acknowledged that "what I did was extremely unacceptable."

"The fact that, during this whole process, I've already lost sponsors and countless fans — I realize that the joke is really on me," he said. "I've learned a valuable lesson from this."

Oiko, which is produced by Dannon Co. Inc., is the only company publicly known to have severed its ties with Newton. His reference to "sponsors" wasn't immediately clear.

Related: NFL Calls Newton’s Comments “Just Plain Wrong and Disrespectful'

Toward the end of the 1-minute, 48-second video, Newton said: "And to the young people who see this, I hope that you learn something from this as well: Don't be like me. Be better than me."

The Observer reported Thursday that Rodrigue approached Newton after the news conference to ask whether he truly believed that football was too sophisticated to understand.

According to The Observer, Newton told Rodrigue that she "wasn't really seeing specific routes when watching the game, she was just seeing if somebody was open." It said he then told her that he should have directed his comment at reporters in general.