SBD/December 17, 2012/Media

No Decision Made By ESPN Yet Regarding Future Of Rob Parker

As of now, Parker is next scheduled to appear on ESPN this Thursday
ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys yesterday said that "no decision had been made" regarding Rob Parker's future after he was suspended last week for comments on "First Take" regarding Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and race, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Parker "hadn't been scheduled to appear on-air again" until this coming Thursday (USA TODAY, 12/17). In N.Y., Bill Carter noted ESPN “did not take any action in the immediate aftermath of the show," which initially was broadcast at 10:00am ET. It was “not until much later in the day, after the issue had been taken up on various Web sites” that ESPN “issued a first statement labeling the comments inappropriate.” The incident was “instantly connected to other racially oriented comments made on ESPN” (NYTIMES.com, 12/14).

KNEW WHAT THEY WERE GETTING: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote ESPN “knew what it was getting" in Parker, who has “officially transitioned into the role of convenient fall guy.” ESPN should "find out why (if Parker’s comments were so offensive) a replay of 'First Take' aired when he again could be heard asking if Griffin is a 'brother or is he a cornball brother.'" Raissman: “He will probably get fired. For doing his job.” NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said that Parker “needs to be held accountable” for his comments. But Raismann asked, “What about the suits who not only hired Parker, but recently elevated him to lead 'debater' on the weekend edition of 'First Take?' What about the producers of that show?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote Parker was “just meeting -- and exceeding -- the terms of his engagement.” Parker was “hired to be an outspoken black man -- no credibility required.” He was “just doing his job -- and very well!” (N.Y. POST, 12/16). In Akron, George Thomas asked of Parker’s comments, “Were they worth suspending someone who has a history of making controversial statements? I’m not sure about that” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/16).

SECOND THOUGHTS: SI.com’s Richard Deitsch “spoke to a half-dozen ESPN staffers Thursday, none of whom would go on the record about the Parker incident.” But “all were dismayed about how ‘First Take’ too often casts the company's employees under its negative umbrella.” Most “believed that even with the show's healthy ratings … ESPN's management was not blind to the cost it brings collaterally” (SI.com, 12/14). Deitsch in a separate piece writes ESPN management has “enabled this circus for years and it leads to rightful skepticism.” The provocative style of "First Take" is “what ESPN is currently embracing and it makes you shake your head” (SI.com, 12/17). In Missouri, Joe Walljasper wrote ESPN’s indefinite suspension of Parker was “a little like Dr. Frankenstein chastising his monster for strangling a few innocents.” ESPN “created a show where egomaniacs with limited intellects create controversies to provoke each other, so it should not expect enlightenment to come out the other end” (COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE, 12/16). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Michael David Smith wrote ESPN’s review “should include not just Parker, but also everything about the show.” On Friday morning’s “First Take,” Parker’s comments “were never mentioned” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 12/14). In Houston, David Barron wrote, “This is what happens when you put newspaper columnists in front of a camera and tell them to say anything they can to create controversy and engage each other in shouting matches and otherwise act like mindless egomaniacs.” Barron: “Other than 'Pardon the Interruption,' I can’t think of anything worthwhile that has come out of this columnist-as-TV-talking-head movement” (CHRON.com, 12/14).

HEATED DEBATE: In Tampa, Eric Deggans wrote, “I hope ESPN doesn’t fire Parker. Because his comments unveiled how racial identity issues can simmer beneath the surface in sports.” But if the “First Take” commentators are “going to try talking about this stuff, they better exercise more care than Parker or co-hosts Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless have shown so far.” ESPN execs should “have Parker return to ‘First Take’ with some people who can talk about this issue with intelligence and insight.” Deggans: “When that talk is done, I’d give Parker a break for a week or two, to demonstrate that such ham-handed talk about race has consequences” (TAMPABAY.com, 12/14).
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