Rob Parker on ESPN's First Take (youtube)
ESPNNY.com and ClickOnDetroit.com columnist Rob Parker made controversial comments on race and Washington Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III during an appearance on ESPN "First Take" Thursday, culminating with the African-American sports reporter questioning whether the quarterback is a "cornball brother" because he has a white fiancee and may vote Republican.
Griffin has had a successful rookie season thus far and is attempting to practice and appear on the field this Sunday after leaving his last game against the Baltimore Ravens following a significant knee injury. During a press conference Wednesday, questions for the 22-year-old veered away from his knee to race, where Griffin said he wanted to be defined by his work ethic, character and personality, not the color of his skin.
"I don't ignore it. I try not to be defined by it," Griffin said. "But I understand different perspectives and how people view different things. I understand that they're excited that their quarterback is an African-American. I play with a lot of pride, a lot of character, a lot of heart. I understand that. I appreciate them for being fans and not just fans because they're African-Americans.''
After these eloquent remarks from Griffin Wednesday, a Thursday discussion on the ESPN talk show First Take--which is familier to controversy--on race and Griffin's answer became very ugly.
After hearing Griffin's remarks, Parker said they raise a red flag to him, and he wants to know if the Redskins quarterback is "a brother, or a cornball brother."
When the stunned fellow panelists asked Parker what that question means, he responded with additional comments that were immediately criticized across the Internet. As transcribed by The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg:
“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.”
Parker has been criticized for controversial reports and comments in the past. He resigned from the Detroit News after asking Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli during a losing season if he wishes his daughter married a different defensive coordinator, as the current one was Marinelli's son-in-law. In 2008, he erroneously reported that Michigan State Quarterback Kirk Cousins was involved in an off-campus fight when it was later revealed he was with his parents at a hotel that night to go to church together the next morning.
When panelist Skip Bayless asked Parker Thursday about Griffin's hairstyle, the reporter responded “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.”
Following the stunning remarks, fellow panelist and African-American Stephen A. Smith responded after a long pause “Well first of all let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went.
“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."
Watch video of the controversial comments below: