Rob Parker, a smart and affable journalist who made an egregious error in questioning the “blackness” of Washington Redskins rookie sensation Robert Griffin III on ESPN’s “First Take” last month, was fired by the network Tuesday after it initially had announced he would be suspended for 30 days.
ESPN issued a statement saying Parker’s contract expired at the end of 2012 and that it would not be renewed.
“Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RGIII comments, we decided not to renew his deal,” an ESPN spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.
On Dec. 13, Parker was discussing Griffin’s answer to a question about Griffin’s role as an African-American quarterback on ESPN2. Parker created a national firestorm when he asked the question: “Is he a brother or a cornball brother?”
Parker, who is black, went on to bring up Griffin’s white fiance and said it was rumored Griffin was a Republican.
Parker later issued an apology on his Twitter account. “I blew it and I’m sincerely sorry,” Parker posted on Twitter. “I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care.”
A day later, on Dec. 20, ESPN announced he was suspended for 30 days. “Our review of the preparation for the show and the re-air has established that mistakes both in judgment and communication were made,” said Marcia Keegan, vice president of production for ESPN who oversees “First Take.” “As a direct result, clearly inappropriate content was aired and then re-aired without editing. Both were errors on our part. To address this, we have enhanced the editorial oversight of the show and have taken appropriate disciplinary measures with the personnel responsible for these failures.
“We will continue to discuss important issues in sports on ‘First Take,’ including race. Debate is an integral part of sports and we will continue to engage in it on ‘First Take.’ However, we believe what we have learned here and the steps we have taken will help us do all that better.”
From then to now, something changed, and Parker, a veteran sports journalist of more than 20 years, is out of a job.