Update 2: If you remember last week, ESPNNewYork.com columnist Rob Parker was bashed by media en route to being suspended indefinitely by ESPN for asking of rookie Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III during an episode of ESPN First Take, “Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?” He then said Griffin was only “kind of black,” and that he’s not “down with the cause, he’s not one of us.”
It took Parker the better part of a week, but yesterday he took to Twitter last night to type out a lengthy, public apology. There’s no sign if he was prompted by ESPN, or if it means ESPN is going to employ him again, but if nothing else, it was long, and sometimes, long apologizes are sincere apologies:
I blew it and I’m sincerely sorry. I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care. This past Thursday I failed to do that. I believe the intended topic is a worthy one. Robert’s thoughts about being an African-American quarterback and the impact of his phenomenal success have been discussed in other media outlets, as well as among sports fans, particularly those in the African-American community. The failure was in how I chose to discuss it on First Take, and in doing so, turned a productive conversation into a negative one. I regrettably introduced some points that I never should have and I completely understand the strong response to them, including ESPN’s reaction. Perhaps most importantly, the attention my words have brought to one of the best and brightest stars in all of sports is an unintended and troubling result. Robert Griffin III is a talented athlete who not only can do great things on the field, but off the field handles himself in a way we are all taught – with dignity, respect and pride. I’ve contacted his agent with hopes of apologizing to Robert directly. As I reflect on this and move forward, I will take the time to consider how I can continue to tackle difficult, important topics in a much more thoughtful manner.
So…at least there’s that.
Update: According to ESPN Spokesman Mike Soltys, ESPN has suspended Rob Parker indefinitely.
Following yesterday’s comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice.We are conducting a full review.
— Mike Soltys (@espnmikes) December 14, 2012
7:45 a.m.: So yesterday, ESPN continued its epic downslide from journalism to whoredom on America’s most hate-watched show, First Take, wherein sports-journalist-turned-bad-journalist-turned-lying-journalist-turned-ESPNNewYork.com-columnist Rob Parker asked the panel and the country about Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, “Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?” He then clarified by saying RG3, as Griffin’s commonly called, isn’t “down with the cause, he’s not one of us.”
When cohost Cari Champion asked him why he’d even ask that, he defended himself saying, “I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée, there was all this talk about he’s a Republican…”
And with one 45-second clip, Rob Parker and his employer finally crossed the line, revealed how low they would go for ratings. Because if you’re not familiar, RG3 is a rookie quarterback who, three weeks away from the postseason, is a contender for both NFL Rookie of the Year and MVP and has a chance to lead the Skins to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. All of this, however, may have been sacrificed when he took a nasty hit to the knee last week, leaving his health and effectiveness in doubt for the upcoming clash on Sunday. These are all storylines that could’ve, should’ve been mined before the sensationalist hackery that was, “Well…Is he black enough?”
Because being a black man, particularly a young one, in America is hard, and sometimes it verges on being unpleasant. There’s a long, complicated struggle to define what it is to be black in this country, a struggle that started with negroes named Toby and was most recently perfected by negroes named Niggaz Wit Attitudes. Black culture became a cool counterculture to White America, both seductive and repellent in the public eye, because somewhere along the line “authentic blackness” became closely married to an image of thuggery.
It’s an untenable position, because for blacks to be successful in this country, it’s generally thought that they have to be better than their peers, their competitors, in every way–smarter, harder-working, more polished, and overall flawless–to combat very real racial stereotypes in the country, all while maintaining an air of “authenticity” that we’ve all decided is the meaning of blackness.
Outside of politics, nowhere is this juggling act more prevalent than on the football field, lined up behind the center. In the major sports, the quarterback position is the very last bastion of White Privilege, where blacks are still having to prove that they’re talented, brave, and intelligent enough to play the most important position in the game.
And only within the last few years have we seen an influx of black QBs in the NFL, expedited by almost superhuman athletes like Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, and RG3. Just last month, San Francisco 49ers’ biracial QB Colin Kaepernick became the focus of debate after he beat out white quarterback Alex Smith for the starting spot, when AOL writer David Whitley questioned whether Kaepernick’s tattoos made him look too much like a criminal to be a starting quarterback, as if that were more important than the fact that he seems to be a better player in every way than his mediocre predecessor.
RG3, outside of showing the early signs of a surefire future hall-of-famer on the field, has also been lauded for his maturity, humbleness, intelligence, leadership, and eloquence in front of the microphone, all traits that were–and to an extent, still are–thought to be rare among blacks of any stripe. So it’s laughable, but mostly just sad, that in Parker’s pursuit of higher ratings, he’d ask if RG3 was a “cornball brother” (read: Oreo, Uncle Tom, et al). It’s worse that he pointed to the quarterback’s engagement to a white woman, which wasn’t even legal in the States until 45 years ago. It’s downright nonsensical that Parker would use RG3’s maybe party affiliation as fodder to support his claim. RG3 was raised in Texas by two religious US Army sergeants. These days, being Republican is what people like that do.
The only thing that could’ve made this asshattery worse was if someone from the panel brought up, like, RG3’s hairstyle as a way to resolve the contradiction between his black skin and über-white lifestyle. Luckily, ESPN’s biggest troll, Skip Bayless, was in the studio.
Somberly, Bayless asked Parker, “What do RG3’s braids say to you?”
“Now, that’s different,” Parker said. “Because to me, that’s very urban.” He stammered on for a bit, clearly vexed, before finishing: “Wearing braids is–you’re a brother. You’re a brother.”
Glad that’s sorted out.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 20, 2012