ESPN fires Rob Parker

Rob Parker, the commentator who created controversy when he questioned whether Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is a “cornball brother” because he has a white fiancee, has been fired by ESPN.

“Rob Parker’s contract expired at year end. Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RGIII comments, we decided not to renew,” an ESPN spokesman said in a written statement.

ESPN can spin this as simply a decision not to renew his contract, rather than a firing, but the reality is that ESPN specifically stated on December 20 that Parker had been suspended for 30 days, and as of December 20, ESPN was expecting Parker back at the end of his 30-day suspension. (He made the comments on December 13, so a 30-day suspension from that date would have ended on January 12.)

So why did Parker’s discipline change from a 30-day suspension to termination? ESPN isn’t saying, but it may be that the network was unhappy with a recent interview Parker gave in which he said that ESPN knew what he was going to say on the air before he said it. In that interview, Parker also seemed to backtrack on his previous apology, complaining that people took his “cornball brother” statement out of context.

Parker has long been known for drawing attention to himself by stirring up controversy, and it’s unsurprising that he eventually took it too far and got himself fired. But ESPN is hardly blameless in all this: Parker made his comments on ESPN First Take, a show that celebrates provocation, and at first ESPN’s producers were so pleased with Parker’s comments about Griffin that the network re-aired the comments on Best of First Take. It was only later, after ESPN was criticized for airing the comments, that the network apologized.

And now, much later, ESPN has finally done what many viewers said it should have done from the beginning, and fired Parker.