“He needs to define what ‘one of us’ is,” Robert Griffin Jr. told Jim Corbett of USA Today. “That guy needs to define that. I wouldn’t say it’s racism. I would just say some people put things out there about people so they can stir things up.
“Robert is in really good shape on who he is, where he needs to get to in order to seek the goals he has in life . . . so I don’t take offense.”
RG2 hit the nail on the head when he said “stir things up.” Parker’s comments flowed directly from ESPN’s desire to “embrace debate” via the only aspect of the now-defunct Cold Pizza show that was even remotely interesting.
Comments like Parker’s don’t pop up out of thin air. Every segment of First Take is planned, with producers finding topics on which the on-air personalities either genuinely disagree or can be coaxed into disagreeing. As MDS pointed out last night, the segment in question started with RG3’s comments regarding his desire to not be identified by race.
The producers picked the subject. The producers knew — or at least should have known — what Parker was going to say. The entire excursion is a product of the format, which ESPN president John Skipper recently defended in an interview with SportsBusiness Journal.
“It’s just another show,” Skipper said of First Take. “It’s not journalism. Nobody goes, ‘Gee, look how awful it is that CBS does these awful reality shows. Doesn’t that taint their great news organization?’ We have seven networks. There’s 8,760 hours per year. We’re programming 50-60,000 hours per year. . . . But people say, ‘Gee, that awful debate that you’re doing, how can the great SportsCenter coexist with the debate of First Take. I don’t know, how do infomercials coexist with the great journalism they’re doing someplace else?”
First of all, when has anyone recently accused SportsCenter of being “great”? Second, the CBS reality shows aren’t filmed on a set that looks a lot like the set of the CBS Evening News. Third, Skipper has done quite well for himself, considering that he is unable to come up extemporaneously with any quality synonyms for the word “awful.” Finally, infomercials rarely include content that the network later must acknowledge was inappropriate.
In this case, the level of premeditation was likely equivalent to an infomercial. Acting on the mandate to “embrace debate,” the producers are as guilty as Parker for either letting him say what he said or failing to keep him from crossing the line.
Again.And the ultimate blame goes to the network that craves the ratings that come from playing with fire, but that lacks the ability to avoid getting periodically burned.