I think most of us have moved on from the comments that Rob Parker made about RGIII on ESPN’s “First Take,” but Parker discussed the issue for the first time since his suspension. We covered the initial comments and the ensuing backlash, so it only seems right to close it out with his response.
Parker went on Local 4, NBC’s affiliate in Detroit, to address his comments with anchor Devin Scillian. Parker is a contributor to Local 4, so he was in pretty friendly company.
“It was just a conversation that’s had in the black community when athletes, or famous entertainers or whatever, push away from their people,” Parker said. “And that’s really what it’s about. You saw it with O.J. Simpson, and some other people, where they say, ‘Well, I’m not black. I’m O.J.’ So it’s more about that, not about RGIII and what’s going on. It’s more about this thing that we’ve battled for years and why people have pushed away from their people. It’s more about that.”
Scillian went on to ask about the ensuing suspension, and said that it came only after ESPN had aired the episode multiple times. For the record, I have no idea how many times that segment actually aired.
“I don’t know if they enjoyed it,” Parker remarked. “I think they were really hurt by it, the backlash that came from it. It wasn’t meant in that vein at all, Devin, and I think the people and the producers and everybody on the show, we just didn’t think of it that way. We weren’t trying to slam the kid. We were trying to tackle those issues.
“I mean, we had a discussion inside,” he continued, admitting that producers knew he was going to discuss race and RGIII. “A pre-production meeting, and, not every single word, but they knew which way we were going and I think, it’s just not off the cuff, obviously.”
I think we all assumed that. But I’m pretty sure the words “cornball brother” weren’t tossed around in the production meeting.
“Where are we, do you think, in this wider conversation?” Scillian asked, bringing the conversation full circle and back to race. “Because there’s obviously this unease with race in sports. It took until, I mean, the fact that there’s a black quarterback has become much more the norm. But it wasn’t that long ago that Doug Williams was such an oddity. Where are we right now with race, as it pertains to right now? In many cities, it’s a lot of black athletes being watched by a bunch of white people in the stands. I mean, there’s race all over this, isn’t there?”
(For what it’s worth, I know few people who look at sports as “a lot of black athletes watched by a bunch of white people in the stands.” I consider that a good thing.)
“It’s still around, people still talk about it,” responded Parker. “Maybe not always in public, but it’s still an issue. And just like you just talked about, if you listen to sports-talk radio, you hear a lot of it where it’s a disconnect, where the athletes are black and the fans are white and there’s always these issues and stuff. And people talk around it. It’s still something that needs to be discussed. And you can’t be afraid to talk about race. And I haven’t been my whole life, and I understand how important it is.
“That’s what I bring to the table,” he continued. “I don’t want to be a guy who’s gonna turn his back or run away from issues. That’s why I’m a columnist, that’s why I’m a commentator. That’s what I bring to the table, and my point of view. And especially, you know I own a barber shop, and those conversations are had all the time in the barber shop.”
“The whole thing is, and I wanna make this clear, I wasn’t saying that he wasn’t black enough. And so, when people say that it’s just not true. I was saying, these are the conversations that take place once a guy pushes away. It was never aimed at him, or I was calling him that. I’m saying, these are the conversations that take place.”
And then for good measure, a shoutout to the show that had given us so much Bog fodder over the years.
“You know, with Twitter and everything, everyone has a chance to issue an opinion on something that happens, and it also shows how big and popular a show ‘First Take’ is,” Parker said. “It’s amazing.”
You can watch the entire interview here.