Rob Parker managed to turn Stephen A. Smith into the voice of reason on "First Take" on Thursday. This unexpected development occurred after Parker asked his fellow panelists on ESPN's debate program if Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is "a brother or is he a cornball brother?"
Even Skip Bayless -- no stranger to introducing race into conversations about Griffin -- had to ask "What does that mean?"
“Well, 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 answered Bayless. “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's questions come one day after Griffin answered questions about the relationship between his race and his career and identity.
"For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin,'' Griffin said on Wednesday, via Tom Corbett of USA Today Sports. "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."
CLICK HERE for more of RG3's comments on race.
Parker seemed to have taken Griffin's comments about transcending race as a repudiation of it. Asked again, what he was talking about and why he was interested, Parker went on.
“Well, because I want to find out about him. I don’t know, because I keep hearing these things," replied Parker, again implying that he was merely voicing concerns that were already being discussed. "We all know he has a white fiancee. There was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which, there’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue.”
In his quest to discover why RG3 "has an issue," it became increasingly likely that Parker has one with RG3. In a moment that may have revealed how Parker judges authenticity, he reversed course when Bayless asked about Griffin's hairstyle.
"Now that's different. To me, that's very urban, Parker begins, later adding. "Wearing braids is ... you're a brother. You're a brother if you have braids on."
Once Parker was done, Smith was asked to weigh in. To his credit, he tried to bring a dose of professionalism to the conversation.
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“Well first of all let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went. RG3, the ethnicity, the color of his fiancee is none of our business. It’s irrelevant," Smith told his "First Take" cohorts. "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."
It seems that Parker is that kind of guy. It also seems that Bayless sometimes plays one on television. As the outrage over the comments spread across the sports blogosphere, Parker began retweeting those who supported him.
What do you think? Was "First Take" a proper forum for Parker's question? Is any place? Was he merely trying to generate attention? Will Parker's addition to the "First Take" roster force Smith into a new role? How long will he last if this is the type of conversation that he is bringing?
Not surprisingly, the segment sparked conversation on Twitter.
UPDATE 7:25 p.m. EST: Mike Soltys of ESPN PR addressed Parker's comments on Twitter.
UPDATE - Dec. 14, 11:50 a.m. EST ESPN announced that Rob Parker has been suspended "until further notice," per John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
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