Nobody will ever mistake ESPN's "First Take" show with anything remotely resembling insightful, important, or accurate journalism. The trainwreck bookmarked by Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith has adopted the slogan "Embrace Debate" to put a nice little hat on the fact that the show is actually the kind of dreck that makes the worst political commentary programs look like great television. As a result, it's tough to come on that show and actually be an embarrassment.
Frequent ESPN talking head Rob Parker, however, went out of his way to do so when the subject of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III came up on Thursday morning. Parker decided that it was the appropriate time to bring up whether Griffin was black enough or not. No, really. We'll just let the video and transcript roll.
"I've talked to some people in Washington, D.C. Some people in [Griffin's] press conferences. 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 fiancé, 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."
Bayless, never content to let someone else have the last infantile, stupid remark, upped the ante with this question: "What do RG3's braids say to you?"
"To me, that's very urban," Parker continued, seemingly determined to dig his own professional grave. "It makes you feel like ... I think he would have a clean cut if he were more straight-laced or not ... wearing braids is ... you're a brother. You're a brother. If you've got braids on."
Smith responded, and you can watch the video if you'd like to get that. We generally oppose quoting Stephen A. Smith under any circumstances. What these talking heads throw against the wall to see what sticks is not the point. What is the point is that Parker, in his position as a supposed journalist, has insulted an individual of color to a cruel and unbelievable degree by actually bringing Robert Griffin's "blackness" to the forefront, and openly questioning it with no basis in fact, no knowledge of the person, and no sense of responsibility.
"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.
"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."
We tend to expect preposterous stuff from this show -- after all, that's what that show does. But what Rob Parker said went far beyond the parameters of "opinion" and veered quickly into something that should have ESPN seriously considering whether they want Parker representing even their worst traffic jam of a media product.
Unlike Parker, I've met Griffin a couple of times. Not nearly enough to know him or his particular thoughts on any particular cause, but enough to know that he knows how to carry himself, and that he's never made any particular statement claiming that he isn't in line with whatever Parker seems to believe he's supposed to be in line with. His teammates respect him, his coaches can't say enough good things about him, and everyone I've talked to who spends any time in his orbit seems to believe that Griffin is absolutely all that he's cracked up to be.
Sadly for journalism in general (not that we'd ever classify "First Take" as journalism under any conditions), this isn't the first time Parker has really blown it when discussing a current Washington Redskins quarterback. In October, 2008, Parker had to publically apologize after falsely claiming on Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV-TV that Kirk Cousins, then a Michigan State player, was involved in a fight between Spartans football and hockey players at a party in East Lansing. The problem? Cousins' parents said that their son was at home, with them, all evening.
"I was wrong. I apologize," Parker said by way of retraction, after first trying to defend his report. "I have reached out to the student-athlete's family and apologized. They have accepted. I also apologize to the Michigan State community."
Parker also had to leave his Detroit paper in 2009 after an incident with then-Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. At the end of the Lions' 0-16 season, Parker asked Marinelli if he wished that his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator, referring to Joe Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law.
Parker had better get that stock apology statement out of the box again. Something tells us he's going to be using it frequently, and for a good long time.
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