ESPN cuts Rob Parker over RGIII commentary
ESPN has parted ways with Rob Parker, the First Take panelist who was suspended by the network following his offensive comments about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. "Rob Parker's contract expired at year's end," said an ESPN spokesperson. "Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RGIII comments, we decided not to renew his deal."
In a discussion of how Griffin views himself within the prism of race, Parker, a frequent First Take panelist and the co-host of a Saturday extension of that show, questioned the quarterback's relationship with African-Americans during a Dec. 14 airing of the ESPN2 program.
"For me, personally, just me, this throws up a red flag, what I keep hearing," Parker said. "And I don't know who's asking the questions, but we've heard a couple of times now of a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people. ...
"But time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him. And I've talked to some people down in Washington, D.C., friends of mine, who are around and at some of the press conferences, people I've known for a long time. But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?"
Parker was then asked to explain what that meant, and he did so, poorly.
"Well, [that] he's black, he kind of does his thing, but he's not really down with the cause, he's not one of us," Parker said. "He's kind of black, but he's not really the guy you'd really want to hang out with, because he's off to do something else."
The comments, which came less than 72 hours after ESPN president John Skipper defended the program, produced a torrent of criticism. The network suspended Parker for 30 days as well as a First Take producer for a week. Sources said other First Take behind the scenes staffers were disciplined.
On Sunday Parker gave an interview to Detroit-based television station WDIV-TV, a station Parker has contributed to over the years. He suggested his comments were taken out of context and that the response was "shocking."
With criticism of the show putting the network in a bad light, ESPN began enhanced editorial oversight on the program last week. Asked specifically what that oversight consisted of with the program, an ESPN spokesperson told SI.com on Tuesday that it meant active participation of ESPN's news desk in show planning meetings.
As for the Saturday extension of First Take, ESPN said the show was just replacement programming for December only.