Robert Griffin III exemplifies all that is wonderful and good about American sports. After a banner career at Baylor University, the immensely popular quarterback was awarded the Heisman Trophy last December and has a glorious season thus far with the Washington Redskins. Right now he’s the top-rated passer in the NFL.
But it seems his fabulous rookie season has been plagued with questions of what it feels like to be a black quarterback in Washington. Not that anyone really cares after there have been so many splendid black guys who have excelled in the pros but every time he is asked, RGIII -- as he is called universally --has been courteous, polite and thoughtful.
On Wednesday of this week, the ever-classy Griffin was asked “the question” by reporter Chick Hernandez and RGIII took it in stride. “Whenever you can relate to the population of the team that you play for, I think it makes it that much more special,” he said easily. “I don’t play too much into the color game because I don’t want to be the best African American quarterback, I want to be the best quarterback.
“But to the fans, and to the fans who think that way and look at me as an African American, it’s important that I succeed, not only for this team, but for them,” he continued. “Because it gives them that motivation, that hey, you know, an African American went out and played quarterback for my Washington Redskins. So I appreciate that; I don’t ever downplay anything like that. Whoever I can go out every week and motivate to do better and to try to go after their dreams, I’m up for that.”
Now you need to know he graduated from Baylor in just three years with a 3.67 grade-point in political science. During his senior year he took grad school courses. The son of Army parents, Robert was born in Okinawa and he’s always been a delight. He’s not just a world-class athlete; he’s a fabulous role model for kids of any color.
But the next day it turned sour when a kook of a sports announcer on ESPN shocked everybody – including Robert – when a black panelist on ESPN’s “First Take” program showed his racial side. Rob Parker, who quietly “retired” at the Detroit News after a few flakey incidents, suddenly blurted, “What does this say about RGIII?”
Parker then proceeded to dig a rather large hole for himself with the following rant. “This is an interesting topic. 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 as the other panelists watched in wonder. “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?”
What does the heck does that mean, Parker was asked.
“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 forged on, oblivious to reason or sanity. “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.”
What does that matter, Parker was asked.
“Well, because I want to find out about him,” Parker answered. “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, the writer out of Texas, tried to defuse the comments by asking Parker about RGIII’s braids. Now that’s different,” our newest racist 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, another black on the panel who played college basketball for Clarence “Big House” Gaines, was drawn into the diatribe and took a deep breath before he started. “Well, first of all let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went.
“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 kinds 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.”
Later in the segment, Parker was asked to clarify whether he was judging Griffin’s blackness and he still seemed confused. “I didn’t mean it like that,” he said.
“We could sit here and be honest, or we can be dishonest. And you can’t tell me that people in the barbershops or people that talk, they look at who your spouse is. They do. And they look at how you present yourself. People will say all the time, you’re not gonna get a job in corporate America wearing those braids. It happens all the time. Let’s not act like it doesn’t, because it does.”
Needless to say, Rob Parker has been suspended “indefinitely” by ESPN for his insensitive and caustic comments. Most people could care less what color Robert Griffin III is unless they are racists and Rob Parker needs to define his life’s stance before he tries to tackle RGIII. This country clearly doesn’t need such garbage on ESPN.