Robert Griffin III, the man, the myth, the legend, not black enough for ESPN’s Rob Parker.


Robert Griffin III

One day. One man. Two opposite views of Robert Griffin III.

Georgetown public relations grad student Beth Jarvis praised the Redskins quarterback in a Letter to the Editor of The Washington Post today (Page A18, Thursday, December 13, 2012). Ms. Jarvis did not set out just to applaud Griffin for his on-field exploits. As a Communications major, she marveled at his innate skill of finding the right touch for every crisis.

 "His courageous display after injuring his knee Sunday helped the Washington Redskins achieve a victory and solidified his standing as an inspirational leader and master brander.

"Already in his short NFL career, he has shown an ability to look adversity in the face and win that is becoming legendary. And, at age 22, he's just getting started.

"Tylenol, Toyota and US Airways are generally the case studies we cite in classes when talking about stellar crisis-communications plans. Even though RGIII is a rookie, I think it's time to add him as a case study to our [Georgetown] curriculum."

What a neat letter about one who has impressed Redskins fans since his college football bowl game to now. I mentally filed it away as a story idea of yet another example of how the cultural significance of Griffin III is greater than his role as athlete.

Griffin is a man with a plan beyond the NFL. He may well be positioning himself for the future, but his steps along that path feel genuine.

I was going to say that Griffin is an ideal that all young people should aspire to be like. I was also going to warn that nobody is as perfect as Griffin appears. He's as human as everyone else is. It's inevitable that he will be knocked off the pedestal we've put him on. I suspect that will come in the future when the absolute adulation we dump on him corrupts him absolutely. But it may come from his past.

That guy who went to Baylor with Griffin thought he had something that was worth $1 million hush money. I do not care, nor wish to know, what that is. Whatever it is, I would see it as the ramblings of a teen-ager on his own for the first time, testing boundaries that once inhibited him and doing something he wouldn't want his mother to know.

I'm not guilty any such thing, of course, but have my doubts about the rest of youwink

Race card about to ruin another career

Rob Parker on ESPN First Take
That would have been the end of a cute little fluff piece. And then the matter took an ugly turn. Panelist Rob Parker asked on ESPN's First Take Show if RGIII was authentically black.

"But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?”

I've been black all my life, but have never heard the term "cornball brother." Griffin said several different times that his aim was to be world class at everything he tries and not to be constricted as the "best black" anything.

It goes beyond the pale (no pun intended) for Mr. Parker to wondere if Griffin was distancing himself from black people. Parker said this was not his idea – a clue that it really was. Parker heard it from others, so he check with friends in the DC area. He learned that Griffin is engaged to a white girl. Parker suspects him of being a Republican. And Griffin has braids. You can't be straight-laced and have braids. You just can't.

Rob Parker is a black racist. Yes, Virginia, you can be black and racist. In Parker's case, he –

•  defined a role along racial lines that Griffin was supposed to play.
•  exposed his own limiting stereotype of the "brothers" like him, I suppose.
•  failed to expand his perception of young black men by dismissing Griffin's parentage, accomplishments and well-spoken thoughts.  

My Bloguin colleague at Awful Announcing captured a video of Parker's statement. The web site transcribed Parker's statement and made the perfect final statement on the topic.

Parker said he spoke with friends. Hog Heaven would like him to name names. I'd like to know the dumbass local SOBs that would says such things. I mean, who wouldn't want to claim RGIII as their own? 

Parker didn't use the N-word, or deny RGIII his financial due or block the entrance to Redskins Park with police dogs. Parker's statements weren't the vilest form of bigotry. They still were ugly, stupid, universally condemned and career damaging – to Parker.

That lesson should have been learned long ago when Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said something silly about breeding slaves to be outstanding athletes to explain why African-Americans were excelling in the NFL. Snyder meant it as a compliment, but he disappeared from broadcasting for that. (Black people call that the Mandingo effect. If you are black of a certain age, this needs no explanation.)

Don Imus made disparaging remarks about the Rutgers Women's Basketball team after the NCAA Championship Game, at one point referring to them as "nappy-headed ho's." Imus claimed he was mimicking hip-hop artists for the amusement of his audience. It's not OK with me when hip-hoppers say this.  

Imus made a vain attempt to save his career through an appearance on Al Sharpton's radio show in New York. CBS suspended him anyway.

Poor Donovan McNabb caught it both ways. Rush Limbaugh accused McNabb of being an affirmative action prop of the NFL and the media.

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

It's always the media with Rush. His career as an ESPN football analyst ended shortly after his statement.

J. Whyatt Mondesire, owner of the black-oriented Philadelphia Sun newspaper and head of the local NAACP chapter heaped scorn on McNabb for lack of leadership in the Terrell Owens affair and the notion that McNabb did not run like a black quarterback. The national NAACP repudiated Mondesire and distanced itself from his statement.

Parker made his statement on ESPN's First Take, where host Skip Bayless maligned white Redskins fans predicting they would call for Kirk Cousins to replace RGIII if Cousins ever had a good game. Cousins had that good game against the Ravens.

There is no quarterback controversy in Washington. The white people who want to sit Griffin this Sunday fear that by playing him, the Redskins are risking the next ten years for football success.

Hog Heaven thinks little of Bayless and his less of Rob Parker. We suspect we will see less of Parker on ESPN.

Griffin III has said the three areas he would not comment on are race, religion and politics. Whenever he gets around to this, you may be sure of one thing. His response, as Ms. Jarvis has said, will be the right touch for the situation.

UPDATE: Add Rob Parker to the list of sports pundits suspended for disparaging Griffin in an artificial controversy. Race is an underlying issue in American society and it should be discussed more. But sports analysts are shallow thinkers by nature, and sports audiences flock to ESPN to escape real-world issues.

Sports is life in microcosm. Sometimes, an analyst has an insight in a sports moment that reflects a larger issue. It's a rare occasion, though. It's better for sports media to keep its eye on the ball for the escapism we crave. 

Robert Griffin III in a thoughtful momeent found on Google here.
Rob Parker on ESPN's First Take found on Google here.

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Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.