Rob Parker, the ESPN commentator who was suspended after saying on the air that he questions whether Robert Griffin III is authentically black because he is engaged to a white woman, has now issued an apology.
Although Parker initially defended his comments and called his critics “silly” and “uneducated,” Parker said in the statement he posted on Twitter today that after six days to reflect, he has seen the error of his ways.
“I blew it and I’m sincerely sorry,” Parker wrote. “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.”
ESPN has not said how long Parker will be suspended, or whether his role will change going forward. But the issues with Parker and his role on ESPN run deeper than one comment about Griffin. Parker was hired on First Take exactly because ESPN looks for provocative, controversial, argumentative commentators to appear on that show. Parker has long been known for inflammatory rhetoric, and that’s exactly what he has given ESPN. He crossed the line with his Griffin comments, but the larger issue is that ESPN hired Parker precisely because it wanted someone who would tiptoe right up against the line.
So while Parker’s apology is an appropriate step, it remains to be seen whether he or ESPN will show they’re sincere by making positive changes to the way they affect the sports discourse.