On ESPN2’s “First Take” Thursday, ESPNNewYork.com columnist Rob Parker reacted to Washington Redskins starting quarterback Robert Griffin III’s comment in USA Today that he won’t be defined by his race. An upset Parker responded by asking if Griffin was “a brother, or is he a cornball brother?” and questioning both his reported Republicanism and his decision to become engaged to a white woman.
“I am an African-American in America,” Griffin told USA Today. “That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that. … We always try to find similarities in life, no matter what it is so they’re going to try to put you in a box with other African-American quarterbacks — Vick, Newton, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon … That’s the goal. Just to go out and not try to prove anybody wrong but just let your talents speak for themselves.”
ESPN has a history of black-quarterback controversies, going back to Rush Limbaugh’s 2003 remarks about then-Philadelphia Eagles starting QB Donovan McNabb. Now add Parker vs. Griffin to the mix.
“Time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him,” Parker said Thursday. “And I’ve talked to some people down in Washington D.C., and … my question, which is just a straight, honest question, is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?”
Parker explained his definition of a “cornball brother.”
“OK, he’s black, he kinda does his thing,” he said of Griffin, “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 want to hang out with because he’s off to something else.”
Parker added that the ethnicity of Griffin’s fiancée and unconfirmed rumors about his right-of-center politics were also red flags.
“I want to find out about him. I don’t know, because I keep hearing these things,” Parker said. “We all know he has a white fiancée. And there was all this talk about how he’s Republican. There’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue, because we did find out with Tiger Woods — Tiger Woods was like, ‘I don’t want to — I got black skin, but don’t call me black.'”
Parker praised Griffin, however, for his braids — as a nod to black culture.
Stephen A. Smith, also an ESPN regular, rejected Parker’s intrusion into Griffin’s personal life but said black quarterbacks should exhibit a special kind of pride.
“Well, first of all, let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went,” Smith said, reacting to Parker. “RG3, 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, he can live his life. I mean, 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 that he made are fairly predictable. 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.”