SBD/December 14, 2012/Media

ESPN Suspends Rob Parker After Racially-Tinged Comments Towards Robert Griffin III

Parker incurred scrutiny from social and traditional media following his comments
ESPN Friday morning announced "First Take" panelist Rob Parker "has been suspended until further notice" following comments he made on Thursday's show regarding race and Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. The network in a statement said, "We are conducting a full review." Parker was not on the show Friday, and the net did not mention the controversy surrounding the comments during the first portion of the show (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Bob Raissman reports Parker originally was "scheduled to appear" on Friday's program. Parker on his Twitter feed following Thursday's show "did not apologize" for his comments, but instead "posted tweets either supporting his point of view or his right to say what he said." A source prior to the suspension said, "That might not sit well with ESPN. He might have considered laying low on Twitter while they (ESPN brass) were deciding what they are going to do." Raissman writes Parker's critics "said much of his commentary is designed to draw attention to himself." The source said, "It's a double-edged sword over there (at ESPN). They want these debate shows to be provocative. Then when someone pushes too far, they've got a problem. It's tricky" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 12/14).

WHAT GOT HIM IN THIS SITUATION: The topic of Griffin not wanting to be defined by his race was brought up on the show, and Parker said, “This throws up a red flag when I keep hearing … a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people.” Parker then asked, “Is he a brother or is he a cornball brother?” He explained that Griffin is “black” but he is “not really down with the cause, he’s not one of us. He’s kind of black but he’s not the guy you really want to hang out with.” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he does not “judge someone’s blackness” based on whether he wears braids in his hair or the race of his fiancée, which was discussed earlier in the segment. ESPN’s Cari Champion said to Parker, “You can’t take a bit of his comments here and there and put them all together and assert he is distancing himself from being African-American” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 12/13).

CROSSING THE LINE: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote Parker "offered bizarre commentary ... that is unbelievable even by Rob Parker's standards." Yoder asked, "Are we really making judgments and insinuations and raising speculation about people and their character based on how they wear their hair, who they marry, and what their political beliefs might be?" Yoder: "How can ESPN defend their integrity and their brand when Rob Parker, a man they have continued to promote and feature on network airwaves, asks of Robert Griffin III, 'is he a brother or a cornball brother?'" If this is the "present and the future of 'Embrace Debate' then ESPN has some serious soul searching to do" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 12/13). In Boston, Chad Finn writes Parker is "doing his best to earn an ESPN varsity letter in spewing foolishness as well as any of his counterparts on that shameless abomination of a program." Finn: "I’d apologize for giving space to Parker’s nonsense, but I suspect the only way he gets reprimanded for them is if enough offended viewers with an outlet call him out." Meanwhile, the "mystery continues as to why a show featuring [Skip] Bayless and Parker is one any viewer would want to hang out with" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/14). In DC, Dan Steinberg wrote the whole discussion "reeks of attention-seeking, and repeating it does me no credit" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/13). In K.C., Jenee Osterheldt wrote the blogosphere "isn't buying the typecasting either." There was "plenty of uproar online about Parker's misstep." Parker is "not the keeper of blackness or the mouthpiece for the black community." He is simply "pushing old racist stereotypes disguised as pro-blackness" (KANSASCITY.com, 12/13).  

TWITTER REAX
: Phoenix-based KTAR-AM host John Gambadoro wrote on his Twitter feed, "I worked with Rob Parker at Newsday for a few years -- without any doubt he deserves to be fired by ESPN for his comments on RGIII." The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi wrote, "Rush Limbaugh gets fired by #ESPN for saying something not even close to being as racist as what Rob Parker and Stephen A. Smith said." SI.com's Jim Trotter said, "If espn were going to fire everyone who has made a dumb statement on first take, well, who would be left? made them myself on that show." Blogger Clay Travis wrote, "Debating whether someone is 'black enough' is so incredibly racist I can't even imagine how it happens. Nice work, ESPN." SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "Looking forward to tomorrow's First Take where they attempt to morph manufactured race-baiting into a manufactured teachable moment."
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