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RGIII & the 'real' black man flap

  • Written by Richard Prince, The Root.com
  • Published in News

rg3.jpgESPN commentator Rob Parker was suspended Friday after igniting a firestorm when he questioned whether Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was a "real" black man.

Parker said Thursday on ESPN's "First Take," "Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?" Both men are African American.

"He's not real. OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause," Parker said. "He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else.



"We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about how he's a Republican ... Tiger Woods was like, 'I've got black skin but don't call me black.'"

ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said in a statement, "Following yesterday's comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice. We are conducting a full review."

Griffin's father, Robert Griffin II, told USA Today that "he was baffled by the comments but wouldn't fire back Thursday night, even though Parker's remarks ignited the blogosphere and sparked angry social media responses," Jim Corbett reported for USA Today.

"A few minutes later after his father spoke, Griffin III tweeted to supporters: 'I'm thankful for a lot of things in life and one of those things is your support. Thank you.'"

Parker's comments have landed him in hot water before. In January 2009, Parker resigned as a sports columnist for the Detroit News after the criticism that followed asking losing Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli at a postgame news conference whether he wished his daughter had married "a better defensive coordinator."

Parker said then he "asked the people for a buyout and they granted me one" after the climate at the paper had deteriorated for him.

Less than two months before that, Parker apologized for implicating Michigan State University backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in an off-campus assault in a comment on WDIV-TV's "Clubhouse Confidential." Cousins now backs up Griffin for the Redskins.

In 1991, Parker was brought up on charges by the Newspaper Guild for crossing picket lines during a bitter strike at the New York Daily News. The charges were later dropped, and Parker moved on to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Writing of Griffin in October in a 3,600-word profile in the Washington Post, Dave Sheinin said, ". . . He was raised in a military household, by two now-retired Army sergeants who taught him to see the world without much regard to race, and those lessons continue to inform his worldview as a young adult.

"'My parents raised me to not ever look at race or color,' Griffin said recently, 'so it doesn't have a big part in my self-identity. (But) I think it has played a big part in how other people view me, just going back to when I was a kid, to even now, doing the things that I've been able to do. As an African American, I think other people view that in a different way than I do.'. . ."

In the Washington Post, Dan Steinberg recounted Thursday's "First Take" exchange:

". . . Panelist Rob Parker was asked, 'What does this say about RGIII?'"

"'This is an interesting topic,' Parker said. 'For me, personally, just me, this throws up a red flag, what I keep hearing. And I don't know who's asking the questions, but we've heard a couple of times now of a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people.

"'I understand the whole story of I just want to be the best,' Parker continued. 'Nobody's out on the field saying to themselves, I want to be the best black quarterback. You're just playing football, right? You want to be the best, you want to throw the most touchdowns and have the most yards and win the most games. Nobody is (thinking) that.

"'But time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him,' Parker went on. 'And I've talked to some people down in Washington D.C., friends of mine, who are around and at some of the press conferences, people I've known for a long time. But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?'

"What does that mean, Parker was asked.

"'Well, (that) he's black, he kind of does his thing, but he's not really down with the cause, he's not one of us,' Parker explained. 'He's kind of black, but he's not really the guy you'd really want to hang out with, because he's off to do something else.'

"Why is that your question, Parker was asked.

"'Well, because I want to find out about him,' Parker said. 'I don't know, because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about he's a Republican, which, there's no information (about that) at all. I'm just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like I've got black skin but don't call me black. So people got to wondering about Tiger Woods early on.'

"Then Skip Bayless asked Parker about RGIII's braids.

"'Now that's different,' Parker said. 'To me, that's very urban and makes you feel like...wearing braids, you're a brother. You're a brother if you've got braids on.'

"Then Stephen A. Smith was asked for his take. He exhaled deeply.

"'Well first of all let me say this: I'm uncomfortable with where we just went,' Smith said. 'RGIII, the ethnicity, the color of his fiancée is none of our business. It's irrelevant. He can live his life any way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that's his business, that's his life. I don't judge someone's blackness based on those kind of things. I just don't do that. I'm not that kind of guy.

"'What I would say to you is that the comments he made are fairly predictable,' Smith went on. 'I think it's something that he may feel, but it's also a concerted effort to appease the masses to some degree, which I'm finding relatively irritating, because I don't believe that the black athlete has any responsibility whatsoever to have to do such things.....'"

"Late Thursday, Parker remained confident there would be no disciplinary action taken," Todd Johnson reported for the Grio.

(NOTE: Richard Prince’s Journal-isms™ column is featured on The Root.com.)

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