Why, in this day and age, are we still so concerned about the color of someone's skin in regard to something as simple as the game of football?
There was a time when sports was the ultimate equalizer in society's racial divide. Regardless of color or creed, the love of the game was something that many could share as a common interest.
For the most part, it overshadowed personal differences. Occasionally, an athlete's situation could transcend the game and shed light on social matters: Magic Johnson's HIV diagnosis or Jim Valvano's struggles with cancer come to mind.
These days, talking heads use sports as a vehicle to push forth their own agendas and opinions. NBC's Bob Costas used the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend to wax poetically on gun control.
Now, a guy like Rob Parker enters race into a debate where it isn't needed.
Before we get further, allow me to give a full disclosure. As you can see from my profile photo, I'm a white guy. I am not an expert on "blackness" by any stretch of the imagination. My knowledge of what it is like to be black in America stems from close friends, television and an expansive collection of hip-hop albums.
Before critics riddle me with comments about how I wouldn't understand a matter like this, they should know that I agree with them. I'm not an authority on what it takes to be a real black person. And you know what, neither is Rob Parker.
That being said, this isn't about feigning outrage over comments I found completely absurd. This isn't about taking Parker to task for stating his opinion, as I'm sure he's taken quite a public beating in the social media arena.
This is about trying to get a better understanding of why Parker felt the need to say what he said. Let's take a deeper look at Parker's comments about Griffin:
I don't know because I keep hearing these things...We all know he has a white fiancee. Then there was all this talk about he's a Republican, which there's no information at all.
Weird. TNT analyst and NBA legend Charles Barkley was once a Republican. He's also married to a white woman. I could be wrong, but I've never heard anyone question his blackness. Also, if "there's no information at all" regarding Griffin's political affiliation, why did Parker feel the need to bring it up on national television?
He's black, he does his thing, 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 the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.
Again, I'm not an expert on "blackness," so I'm a bit confused over how someone can be "kind of black." I'm also not sure what cause Griffin is supposed to be down with. I also have to wonder what kind of firestorm we would be dealing with if these comments didn't come from Parker but came from someone like, say, Skip Bayless.
That's the hypocrisy of it. If Griffin's "blackness" is an issue that needs to be called into question (and, really, it isn't or shouldn't be), why is that only someone like Parker is suitable to debate it? More importantly, why does Parker or any of us care?
It's almost 2013. An African-American man is the leader of this country, having won the past two elections. Why is there—even with such a huge step forward in race relations as Barack Obama's presidency is—still the occasional need to take a few steps back?
In response to Bayless' inquiry about RG3's braids, Parker let off this gem: "That's different, because, to me, that's very urban. Wearing braids is, you're a brother. You're a brother if you've got braids."
So, Griffin is a brother because he has braids, but not a brother because he's a Republican who has a white fiancée and doesn't come off as someone "down for the cause"? Fellow rookie QB Russell Wilson is black. He doesn't have braids. Why isn't his blackness being called into question?
Why is this solely an RG3 issue?
The most shocking part of this whole scenario was the fact that notorious screamer Stephen A. Smith managed to be the voice of reason:
I'm uncomfortable with where he just went...RG3, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancee is none 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. I don't judge someone's blackness based on those kinds of things.".
In a statement hours after the show aired, a spokesman for ESPN said, "The comments were inappropriate and we are evaluating the next steps."
Time will tell what those next steps will be. Rush Limbaugh resigned in 2003 after making racially motivated comments about Donovan McNabb. It will be interesting to see how the Worldwide Leader handles this.
At the end of the day, Robert Griffin III is an NFL quarterback. He has uplifted a fanbase in the nation's capital that has been downtrodden for years. Like any one of us, he should be judged on how he does his job and not the color of his skin or what groups he represents.
We live in the age of transparency. There are so many platforms people can use to make their opinions known. However, with that privilege comes responsibility. I give Parker credit for having the audacity to take such a peculiar public stance, but I also fault him for using his platform to broadcast the kind of stereotypes we teach our children to avoid at all costs.
There are proper ways to interject race into a national debate, if the situation calls for it. This wasn't one of them nor was it necessary to overshadow Griffin's accomplishments by going on a soap box about being the right kind of black man.
Only Parker knows why he said what he said. If it was to bring race in sports to the forefront by challenging its hypocrisies, then all of this outrage will turn out to be unwarranted. However, if Parker's intentions were to add to the outlandish, shock-jock antics that First Take has become known for, then perhaps he too needs to resign.
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