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Shutdown Corner

ESPN suspends Rob Parker, but will the network’s ethics ever change?

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

There are obviously far more important things to talk and think about on this day of tragedy, but as a follow-up note, we feel obliged to inform you that after he made some patently ridiculous comments on ESPN's "First Take" show regarding Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin and race, Rob Parker has been suspended from the network indefinitely.

"I've talked to some people in Washington, D.C. Some people in [Griffin's] press conferences," Parker said on Thursday's show, when the subject of Griffin's "blackness" came up for some reason. "Some people I've known for a long time. My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is ... is he a 'brother,' or is he a cornball 'brother'? He's not really ... he's black, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really like the guy you'd want to hang out with. I just want to find out about him. I don't know, because I keep hearing these things. He has a white fiancée, people talking about that he's a Republican ... there's no information at all. I'm just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Tiger Woods was like, 'I have black skin, but don't call me black.' People wondered about Tiger Woods early on -- about him."

It took ESPN until Friday to issue any public response to Parker's comments.

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said: "Following yesterday's comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice. We are conducting a full review."

A full review of what? We are not certain. Parker said what he said. Reaction was swift and vociferous, as you might imagine.

"He needs to define what 'one of us' is. That guy needs to define that," Griffin's father told Jim Corbett of USA Today Sports about Parker's comments. "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.

[Related: Robert Griffin III gets brutal reality check]

"Robert is in really good shape on who he is, where he needs to get to in order to seek the goals he has in life ... so I don't take offense."

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who's usually pretty humorous and interesting on his Twitter account, put Parker in his place with these thoughts:

I'm going to work on my blackness today ... My mom is Mexican, so I can only optimize 50% of my blackness.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and a man of color himself, had this to say:

"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."

And in the end, accountability is the larger issue.

[Also: NFL analyst Ron Jaworski rips Nick Saban for being a 'liar']

ESPN should not be congratulated for suspending Parker, though that's undoubtedly the desired reaction in Bristol. Instead, those within the network who have decided to abdicate any sense of journalistic responsibility in favor of a craven desire for ratings and "buzz" should probably take a few minutes and consider that they created and nourished an environment by which Rob Parker, who had made multiple professional missteps before, could thrive by saying stupid stuff and getting away with it. ESPN should not feel good about suspending Parker, because ESPN had no qualms about re-running "First Take" on Thursday with Parker's comments entirely intact. Those in control had a chance to run damage control, but they didn't. And primarily, they didn't because they didn't see the need.

ESPN didn't suspend Parker because his comments ran afoul of the network's ethics. They did so because his comments did not get the desired reaction.

In the end, whether Rob Parker is fired from the network or not, it's up to ESPN to decide where it wants to go from here. Does ESPN simply replace Parker with another idiot to serve its desire for ethically challenged programming, or will this serve as a wake-up call to the fact that when you put people like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith in charge of a sandbox and let them run roughshod all they want, you're going to get this kind of garbage over and over again?

Given ESPN's recent history, we're going to assume that the network will do away with the effect, and ramp up the cause. And that will leave the rest of us to wonder whether "Embracing Debate" is a worthwhile endeavor at all.

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