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On December 12, 2012 ESPN's First Take contributor Rob Parker opened his mouth in an attempt to introduce race in a conversation intended to test the depth of the Washington Redskins' rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III's Character.
Robert Parker responded to a quote extracted from a post practice QB media session held a day earlier. The dominant conversation of that session was regarding the injury Robert Griffin III (RG3) sustained 3 days earlier against the Baltimore Ravens. At the end of the press conference a journalist announced that his periodical was writing a story celebrating the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Day and President Obama’s Inauguration were going to take place one day apart.
The report went on to say that Robert Griffin III has re-energized the DC area giving young people a positive role model and providing a positive African American figure in the city that produced the NFL’s first black Superbowl winning quarterback. The report asked Robert what it meant to him to be this larger than life figure fir African American in DC. To that Robert responded “"For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin' …"You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That's what I've tried to go out and do.” "I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don't have to be defined by that.'' "I am aware how much race is relevant to them;'' "I don't ignore it. I try not to be defined by it. 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.'' (http://www.usatoday.com/
story/sports/nfl/redskins/ 2012/12/12/robert-griffin-iii- washington-redskins-race/ 1765701/)
When presented with an abbreviated version of Robert’s response to the columnist a day earlier, ESPN’s Rob Parker indicated that Robert Griffin III’s comment was a demonstration of Robert Griffin III “distancing himself from black people.” Parker would continue with the question “Is he a brotha or a cornball brotha?” At a moment when his tongue was committing career suicide Mr. Parker attempted to substantiate his argument by introducing the fact that Robert Griffin III has a white fiancé and some people that he (Parker) knows from the area told him that Robert Griffin III is a member of the Republican Party. Parker acknowledged that Robert Griffin III wears braids as a hairstyle, but continued to question whether Robert Griffin III is “down for the cause?”
The remaining members of the panel appeared to be shocked by the inflammatory statements being made by Mr. Parker. Show moderators attempted to get additional commentary from the show’s resident African American columnist, Stephen A. Smith. In a moment of unadulterated candor Stephen A. Smith responded “I am extremely uncomfortable with the conversation being had.”
When describing what a “cornball-brotha” is Rob Parker asks if Robert Griffin is the type of brotha that people think is cool, or if he’s the type of brotha that nobody really wants to hang-out with - The cornball brotha.” He added that he’s just openly saying what is being discussed in African American barbershops throughout America.
On December 19, 2012 Rob Parker issued the following apology for his comments:
“I blew it and I’m sincerely sorry. I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care. This past Thursday I failed to do that. I believe the intended topic is a worthy one. Robert’s thoughts about being an African-American quarterback and the impact of his phenomenal success have been discussed in other media outlets, as well as among sports fans, particularly those in the African-American community. The failure was in how I chose to discuss it on First Take, and in doing so, turned a productive conversation into a negative one. I regrettably introduced some points that I never should have and I completely understand the strong response to them, including ESPN’s reaction. Perhaps most importantly, the attention my words have brought to one of the best and brightest stars in all of sports is an unintended and troubling result. Robert Griffin III is a talented athlete who not only can do great things on the field, but off the field handles himself in a way we are all taught – with dignity, respect and pride. I’ve contacted his agent with hopes of apologizing to Robert directly. As I reflect on this and move forward, I will take the time to consider how I can continue to tackle difficult, important topics in a much more thoughtful manner.”
Full disclosure, I am a die-hard Washington Redskins fan, but I am also a 36 year old African American. Rob Parker’s comments were divisive and representative of a disease of ignorance that pollutes the hearts and minds of many Americans, but is exacerbated when manifested by the tongues of African-Americans.
Mr. Parker’s comments were the written equivalence of the black-on-black genocide that is occurring throughout inner-cities in America. Mr. Parker’s comments contributed the same to African American culture as the degrading and harmful images broadcast by certain entertainment artist (ref: Trinidad James’ All Black Everything Video) and reality television shows predominantly broadcast by the media giant VIACOM.
The first sign of idiocy was evident when Mr. Parker questioned Robert Griffin III’s blackness. Let’s be clear, in my 36 years of being a deeply-dark pigmented African American, I have yet to discover the instrument that accurately and universally measures “blackness” as a culture, race or state of being. I must assume it is located at the bottom of the “Fountain of Youth.”
Second, the term cornball is used in urban slang diction as an undesirable quality consisting of social deficiency resulting in a state of inadequacy and leading to social solitude and isolation. Mr. Parker, do you really want me to believe that you think Robert Griffin III fits that description on any level? I will go out on a limb and make a bold statement: If you and Robert Griffin III were to enter any venue in America together, the reaction that the two of you would receive would more closely align you with the term cornball than he. I am willing to donate my full annual salary to that end.
Furthermore, you present major cornball tendencies:
Example #1: You provided breaking news that Robert Griffin III has a white fiancé. Are you mad or something? Who cares what color the woman Robert Griffin chooses to romance is? True brothas feel one of two ways about another man’s chic- Either you have enough game to take her if you want her, or whatever he’s doing over there is his business. What another man eats won’t make you s#*t! – That’s Streetcode Mr. Parker.
Example #2: Robert Griffin III is a Republican. I don’t know this to be true, but if he is, how does that affect the way he throws a football or how will it affect your tax bracket on January 1, 2013. The answer is Nada! He’s the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, not the President of the Free World. At a time when the most exciting player in the NFL, America’s National Pastime, is a young man of color that is promoting something positive like marriage or commitment instead of whoring and fathering multiple children out of wedlock, you chose to take critical aim at the color of his companion.
Example 3: When it appeared you were a man stranded on an island alone you said “I’m just saying what’s being said in barbershops across America about RG3!” Was this a scientific survey? If it was you missed “Suite 302 Barbershop and Salon” located in Bear, DE. I know because I spoke to the owner. It’s my guess that you represent the thoughts and opinions of African American barbershop-goers about as much as Mitt Romney represents those of the “Milford 13,” “Rosa Parks” or the “Little Rock 9.”
By attempting to bring legitimacy to your straw argument you violated the African-American Barbershop Rule #1 that states “what goes on here, stays here!” to wit items observed, expressed or otherwise disseminated are covered by Executive Privilege. There is an African American slang term for what you were doing. It’s called Dry-Snitching.
Example 4: Your apology – Be a man! Stand up for what you believe. You were smiling when made the comments on ESPN’s First Take. You should have had black shoe polish on your face along with white paint for eyes and exaggerated lips. Yup, you were a one-man minstrel show. A disgrace to the moment of passion that created you. Your comments invoked immediate thoughts of Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder’s dialogue on African American athletic dominance and Don Imus’ utter disrespect towards the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team when he labeled them “Nappy-Headed Hoes.”
In an attempt to preserve what little you have left of a journalism career, you recanted all of your prior statements. That is selling-out in the worst way. If you want to have a discussion about race and American sports you should take your queues from Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Craig Hodges, Jessie Owens, or Mahmoud Abdul Rauf – All are black men that took a stand for what they believed in the sports realm and paid the ultimate price for “standing up for the cause,” but not you, you waffled faster than Robert Griffin III’s 40yrd dash time.
Based on the demonstrated ignorance of your comments towards Robert Griffin III and your lack of, or reckless regard for implicit fundamental cultural codes among African American Men in America, I want to designate you as a card-carrying “Cornball Brotha.” I could call you an Uncle-Tom, but the character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel had a character level too high to be tarnished by your association. We know why he did the things he did. What was your motivation “Mr. Cornball Brotha?”
Rob has since apologized for his statements here..
I said what I said to him but I can also step back and 'accept' what he is saying now. He pissed a lot of folks off though as you can see from the above diatribe and it is going to take others a bit longer I suspect to accept his words. Who knows, maybe Rob doesn't or shouldn't care at some point. I'm sure now though that even if he thinks what he thought, he wishes it would have came out differently.