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ESPN's Rob Parker Apologizes to Robert Griffin III for Racially Charged Rant

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 16:  Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 walks onto the field against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

Last Thursday, analyst Rob Parker questioned whether Robert Griffin III was "black enough" on ESPN's First Take. Not surprisingly, the network suspended him the next day.

Even less surprisingly, Parker has since issued a personal apology, which came on Wednesday via his TwitLonger account:

I regrettably introduced some points that I never should have and I completely understand the strong response to them, including ESPN’s reaction. Perhaps most importantly, the attention my words have brought to one of the best and brightest stars in all of sports is an unintended and troubling result.

Robert Griffin III is a talented athlete who not only can do great things on the field, but off the field handles himself in a way we are all taught—with dignity, respect and pride. I’ve contacted his agent with hopes of apologizing to Robert directly. As I reflect on this and move forward, I will take the time to consider how I can continue to tackle difficult, important topics in a much more thoughtful manner.

Engaged in a debate on Griffin, Parker initially got himself in trouble by asking, "Is he a brother or is he a cornball brother?" He continued from there (via Daniel O'Leary of the New York Daily News):

He's not real. He's black, he kind of does the thing. But he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kinda black, but he's not really like the guy you really want to hang out with because he's off into something else.

Parker went on to reference RG3's white fiance and the rumor that he is a Republican, comparing him to Tiger Woods, whom Parker feels has distanced himself from the African-American community.

On air, even fellow analyst Stephen A. Smith was taken aback by Parker's remarks, noting, "First of all, let me say this: I'm uncomfortable with where we just went."

Parker's apology was appropriate, but his comments reflect a larger fallacy that often pervades sports media—that a player's race and ethnicity are not only reflections of his identity, but of how he should play the game. 

With the sports world still abuzz over Parker's controversial rant, ESPN now faces a difficult decision of whether or not to fire the analyst for his actions. At the least, expect his indefinite suspension to carry on until the NFL season comes to a close. 

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