Rob Parker was about to return to ESPN following a suspension for comments made on ESPN’s “First Take” program concerning Robert Griffin III. But instead of being welcomed, he was fired from ESPN.
In the segment Parker, who is black, says, “My question, which is a straight, honest, question, is, ‘Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?’” When asked to follow up and to clarify his statement, Parker continued, “He's not real. OK, 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 kind of black, but he's not really, like, the guy you really want to hang out with because he's off to something else.”
Parker claims his comments were made in order to get to know more about RG3. According to Parker, “I want to find out about him. I don’t know, I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancee. There was all this talk about how he's a Republican, which there is no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into 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.’”
The comments about RG3 led to immediate criticism and Parker soon apologized on Twitter. According to Parker, “I blew it and I’m sincerely sorry. I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care. This past Thursday I failed to do that. I believe the intended topic is a worthy one. Robert’s thoughts about being an African-American quarterback and the impact of his phenomenal success have been discussed in other media outlets, as well as among sports fans, particularly those in the African-American community. The failure was in how I chose to discuss it on 'First Take,' and in doing so, turned a productive conversation into a negative one.”
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On Dec. 20, Parker was suspended for 30 days and was set to return to ESPN next week. On Sunday, Parker was interviewed on Detroit’s Flashpoint. Speaking about the incident, Parker said the production team knew where the conversation was going. “We had a discussion inside a pre-production meeting. And not every single word but they knew which way we were going. I think, it's not just off the cuff, obviously,” he said, according to Deadspin.
ESPN announced Parker’s firing on Tuesday. A spokesman for ESPN said, “Rob Parker's contract expired at year's end. Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RG III comments, we decided not to renew his deal.”
The news may have come as a surprise to Parker. Michael David Smith, managing editor of Pro Football Talk, said on Twitter, “I'm told Rob Parker was under the impression he was returning to ESPN next week, until they told him this morning that he was fired.” Parker has not commented about being let go by ESPN.
A video of Parker's comments can be viewed below.