Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was recently featured in USA Today. Griffin provided several quotes that stated how he did not want to be defined as an African-American quarterback. One ESPN commentator, Rob Parker, felt that the comment raised questions about RG III.
Parker took it one step further on Thursday morning’s show “First Take” where, being an African-American himself, said he has a lot of questions regarding the Redskins quarterback. However, the fact that Parker questioned if he was ‘authentically black’ raised more than the eyebrows of people who were offended by his comments; including ESPN who agreed that Parker’s comments were out of line. Not only did Parker’s comments cause people to voice their displeasure on Twitter but also forced ESPN to make a decision that will most likely mark the end for Rob Parker being on ESPN.
ESPN’s show “First Take” is a sports show that seems to be designed to provoke a response that is not always favorable. Comments from the show’s panelists may not flagrantly cross the line but has a tendency to frequently tiptoe up next to the line. Before the show, RG III had made comments that appeared in USA Today saying how he did not want others to define him as an African-American quarterback.
So, taking all of this into account, Parker took it upon himself to ask his fellow panelists if Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is “a brother or is he a cornball brother?” One of the panelists, Skip Bayless, who is no stranger when it comes to introducing race into conversations regarding Griffin, had to ask Parker, “What does that mean?” Parker said, “He’s not really. He’s black, he does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.”
Parker went on further by saying that he needs to know more regarding Griffin’s personal life before he can agree that Griffin is ‘authentically black.’ Parker said, “I want to find about him,” Parker said. “I don’t know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée. Then there was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which there’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, ‘I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me black.’ So people wondered about Tiger Woods.”
When Bayless asked about the fact that Griffin braids his hair, Parker commented that it’s an aspect of Griffin he approves of. He said, “That’s different, because, to me, that’s very urban. Wearing braids is, you’re a brother. You’re a brother if you’ve got braids.”
While it seemed that the panelists were comfortable with the direction the conversation was going, one panelist, Stephen A. Smith, commented on how he felt uncomfortable with the way Parker framed his argument.
Smith responded to Parker by saying, “First of all, let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went,” Smith said when asked to respond to Parker. “RG3, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancée is none of our business, it’s irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life, he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.”
Smith was not the only one who voiced his displeasure on Parker’s comments. Many took to twitter to voice their outrage over his comments about RG III, though there were those that supported Parker and were not offended. Despite having an audience that supported him, it became apparent that ESPN was not part of that audience.
As of Friday, ESPN has suspended Parker indefinitely due to his disparaging racial comments regarding Griffin. ESPN spokesman Mike Solty said, “Following yesterday’s comments Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice. We are conducting a full review.”
Despite Parker’s comments, Robert Griffin II, Griffin’s father, had a different outlook as he talked to USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. He said, “I wouldn’t say it’s racism. I would just say some people put things out there about people so they can stir things up.”
Parker, who is 48-years-old, has worked as a reporter and columnist for newspapers such as the Cincinnati Enquirer, Newsday and the Detroit News. His website states that he first started to work at ESPN in 2003.
ESPN Host Questions RG3’s Racial Identity
Rob Parker’s ESPN debate panel took an unexpected turn when he asked if Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is “a brother or is he a cornball brother?”