Rob Parker, a veteran journalist of 25 years, created a firestorm Thursday when on ESPN’s First Take, he questioned Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s blackness.
It was a strange place for Parker to go, and he dug himself into a deeper quagmire the more he spoke.
“I’ve talked to some people in Washington, D.C.,” Parker, who has worked at the New York Daily News and the Detroit News, started. “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.”
Skip Bayless asked Parker: “What do RG3’s braids say to you?”
“To me, that’s very urban,” Parker said in his incoherent response. “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.”
Stephen A. Smith, who was on the show from a remote location, was asked to chime in. After much contemplation, Smith said, “I’m uncomfortable with where we just went. RGIII, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancee is none of our business, it’s irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life, he can live his life.”
In USA Today on Wednesday Griffin said: “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,” he added. “I don’t ignore it. I try not to be defined by it. But I understand different persectives 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.
“We always try to find similarities in life, no matter what it is so they’re always going to try to put you in a box with other African-American quarterbacks — (Michael) Vick, (Cam) Newton, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon,” Griffin said. “Warren Moon and Doug Williams really didn’t run that much. That’s the negative stereotype when it comes to African-American quarterbacks, that most of us just run. Those guys threw it around. I like to think I can throw it around a little bit.
“That’s the goal. Just to go out and not try to prove anybody wrong but just let your talents speak for themselves.”