I have no use for any one (black or white) who obsesses over whether someone is “authentically black”.
by Michael David Smith
Several hours after an ESPN commentator questioned whether Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is authentically black, ESPN said those comments were out of line.
In a statement released by an ESPN spokesman, the network said, “The comments were inappropriate and we are evaluating our next steps.”
It will be interesting to see what those “next steps” are, and whether they lead to the commentator who made the comments, Rob Parker, to lose his job. When another ESPN commentator, Rush Limbaugh, made racially charged comments about another quarterback, Donovan McNabb, that ended up being the last day that Limbaugh appeared on ESPN’s NFL pregame show.
In Parker’s case, the comments would seem to be even further outside the bounds of what’s acceptable than Limbaugh’s claim that McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to promote a black quarterback. Parker went so far as to say that being engaged to a white woman somehow made Griffin “not really” black. That’s way, way outside the bounds of what’s generally considered an acceptable part of the discourse.
However, ESPN also has to shoulder plenty of the blame for Parker’s comments: The show Parker was appearing on, ESPN First Take, is specifically designed to provoke, and the comments from the show’s panelists, when they don’t flagrantly cross the line, frequently tiptoe right up next to the line. It’s also telling that ESPN later aired Parker’s comments on its Best of First Take afternoon show, suggesting that those are exactly the kinds of provocative comments that ESPN wants on First Take.
Furthermore, Parker’s comments didn’t just surface suddenly during a discussion of Griffin and the Redskins. They were part of a broader segment that began with quotes Griffin gave to USA Today about not wanting to be defined as an African-American quarterback. The producers on First Take surely knew the basic thrust of what Parker was going to say. And they surely knew he was going to say something controversial. And they surely liked that, because First Take is a show designed to draw ratings by stirring controversy.
ESPN suspends Rob Parker
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said: “Following yesterday’s comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice. We are conducting a full review.” Parker, appearing on ESPN’s “First Take” on Thursday, was asked about Griffin’s role as a black quarterback. Parker questioned Griffin’s “blackness.” “Is he a brother or a cornball brother?” said Parker, who is black. Later, he said he wanted to find out more about Griffin and how he deals with black teammates and others in Washington. “We all know he has a white fiancée,” he said. “There was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which, there’s no information [about that] at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper as to 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 got to wondering about Tiger Woods early on.” Robert Griffin II, the quarterback’s father, told USA Today Sports Thursday night : “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.” DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, told The Washington Post in an email Friday: “Robert can certainly take care of himself. Nonetheless, I hope that our men and for that matter, my own kids, will never beg for authenticity from someone who can only talk about the things that other people have the courage to do. People need to be held accountable for the offensive things that they say