It was six days ago when Rob Parker asked on ESPN2's carnival show First Take if Robert Griffin III was a "brother or a cornball brother." Outrage over Parker's incendiary racial commentary and stereotyping was immense and immediate. ESPN acted swiftly in suspending Parker the next morning.
Following his controversial statements, Parker remained combative with folks on Twitter responding with hashtags like #pleze and #urpathetic and calling people uneducated. After his suspension, Parker then went silent.
Six days after his initial comments (which have now been seen on Youtube almost 1 million times), Parker offered this lengthy apology on his Twitter page…
"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. 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."
While those words seem heartfelt and I'm sure Parker regrets what he said, the question has to be whether they are too late to save his job. It's reminiscent of what happened with Columbus radio host Scott Torgerson earlier this year. He was initially suspended, then fired for his comments about Desmond Howard after it was apparent the situation was untenable. Parker has suffered the suspension and The Big Lead is saying it's 75-25 he'll lose his job.
Parker may be sincerely sorry for what he said, but it doesn't take back those words, nor does it take back his history of these kinds of mindless controversies. Just look at how he initially responded hours after his RGIII comments. If ESPN does bring him back onto First Take, odds are they'll have to deal with this same old song and dance another time down the road when Parker makes his next mistake.
The larger point is hopefully this is a wake up call to ESPN's debate style programming. To stay relevant, it's only natural that First Take must become more provocative and more controversial. They must push the envelope harder. With the corosive and hyperbolic nature of First Take, it was only a matter of time before they went off the cliff. Will those producers and that show and ESPN as a whole respond appropriately and take a step back from all of the baiting of professional athletes, name-calling, and debate theatrics? Let's hope so.