SBD/January 9, 2013/Media

ESPN Parts Ways With Rob Parker Following Controversial Comments About Griffin

Controversy over Parker's comments led to greater editorial oversight of "First Take"
ESPN has ended its relationship with Rob Parker, the “First Take” commentator who was suspended for insensitive remarks about Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. An ESPN statement released yesterday afternoon stated, “Rob Parker’s contract expired at year’s end. Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RGIII comments, we decided not to renew his deal.” Because of the controversy, ESPN took steps to add more editorial oversight to the show. A source said that that oversight started last week with members of ESPN’s news desk sitting in on “First Take” production meetings. Parker was suspended last month after questioning how much Griffin was doing for the African-American community and pointing out that he has a white fiancée and could be a Republican. Parker asked on air, “Is he a brother or a cornball brother?” (John Ourand, THE DAILY). Parker last month was named host of a Saturday version of "First Take," but ESPN said that it was “just replacement programming for December only” (SI.com, 1/8).

DEFENDING HIS COMMENTS: Parker on Sunday appeared on WDIV-NBC's "FlashPoint" and responded to his then-suspension from ESPN. Parker talked about his comments regarding Griffin and said, “It was never to condemn the young man. RGIII is a great young man with a bright future. It was more about concerns than condemning him.” He added, "It’s just a conversation that’s had within the black community when athletes or famous entertainers push away from the black community and their people. ... It’s more about that. It’s more about this thing that we’ve battled for years and why people have pushed away from their people." WDIV's Devin Scillian noted, “You got suspended for it but they only did that after they’d (ESPN) aired the thing three different times. It seems to me that ESPN was a little duplicitous here. They certainly enjoyed the attention it got.” Parker added he did not know if they enjoyed it but that “they were really hurt by it, from the backlash that came from it." He noted his comments were not "meant in that vein at all,” and that the people and the producers of the show did not think of it that way. Scillian said, “Some of the blow back of course came from some of the black community who felt that this was sort of treasonous that you were going after a black athlete for not being black enough when really he’s setting a terrific example in so many ways.” Parker added, “I wasn’t saying that he wasn’t black enough, so when people say that, it’s just not true. I was saying these are the conversations that take place once a guy pushes away” (“FlashPoint,” WDIV-NBC, 1/6).
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