Robert Griffin III said after his Washington Redskins practiced on Wednesday that he did not want to be defined by his race. His statement sparked a debate on ESPN’s “First Take” that caused talking head Rob Parker to question Griffin’s blackness.
First, we’ll share what Griffin said.
“For me, you don’t ever want to be defined by the color of your skin,” Griffin said at the end of Wednesday’s post-practice news conference in reference to a question about Martin Luther King, Jr, via USA Today. “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.”
Griffin has been credited with uniting the nation’s capital, which is often divided based on political viewpoints. He knows that he has been a source of pride among black Washington Redskins fans.
“I am aware how much race is relevant to them,” RGIII said. “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.”
To me, that’s as nice of a statement about the matter as one can make. Griffin wants to be defined by what matters the most — the content of one’s character — not his race. It’s truly an admirable viewpoint, and it’s the kind of statement that endears Griffin to all fans, regardless of race.
But then you get guys like Rob Parker, who seems to think that this means Griffin isn’t black enough. Transcriptions of the exchange on “First Take” provided by DC Sports Bog.
“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?”
“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.”
Parker was debating the issue with Stephen A. Smith, and he was asked if that was his question.
“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.”
Skip Bayless then turned to a discussion about Griffin’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.”
Stephen A. Smith was asked for his opinion.
“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.
“Let me say this clearly. I don’t know of anybody who goes into something trying to be the best black anything. We understand that. That’s a given,” Smith said. “But I do think it’s important to acknowledge a level of pride and a feeling of a level of accomplishment for being somebody who happens to be of African American descent, who competes and achieves and accomplishes things on the highest level while also bringing attention – to some degree anyhow – to the pride that they feel being black. Because they’re allowing themselves to be a reminder to those who preceded them, who worked so hard, accomplished and achieved so much, but were denied the accolades that that individual is receiving.”
Unfortunately, you have some sports personalities ruining Griffin’s ideals. Here’s a great person, a great leader, who truly believes in what’s right. And then you have a couple of people on TV, who get paid to say outrageous things, complaining that he’s not catering specifically to the black audience. It’s true lunacy if equality is what we’re striving for.
Just remember that this is exactly what ESPN wants out of its “First Take” personalities: to gain eyeballs and attention by any means necessary.
Parker has a history of stirring up matters regardless of how offensive his views are. He’s the same person who once asked former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli if he wished his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator (Marinelli’s son-in-law, Joe Barry, was the team’s DC during the 0-16 season):
Parker’s own newspaper called the question to Marinelli “unprofessional” and “inappropriate,” but it was just the sort of edgy thing that made him a perfect candidate for ESPN work.
I’d say we could expect a suspension for Parker, but this is exactly what ESPN wants. They didn’t do a thing to Skip Bayless when he race-baited about Kirk Cousins.
Parker’s comments are truly disgraceful, and they represent the sort of mindset that holds the world back from seeing beyond color.
What’s additionally frustrating is that Parker defended his viewpoint later in the day, retweeting the thoughts of those who agreed with him. It’s a true shame that he thinks having a few like-minded people agree with him means that he is right on the matter.Google+