Friday, December 14, 2012

Is RG III Black Enough?!?

Robert Griffin III has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing year for DC sports[1], and has singlehandedly made me a legitimate Redskins fan.[2] Dude is easily the most electrifying player to hit the NFL since Adrian Peterson, and has rejuvenated a once-proud big-market franchise. He is truly must-see TV, and has the Skins on the verge of the playoffs for the first time in years.

Playing for a frachise that has its share of not-so-savory racial history (last NFL team to integrate), in a city that's majority black, lots of people view RGIII's contributions beyond the prism of on-field performance.[3] There's plenty of cultural cache that comes along with being a winning black QB in Chocolate City.[4] It's why Griffin's great season transcends sports in many ways, resulting in ignoramus comments like those uttered by an ESPN talking head yesterday.
An ESPN spokesman called Rob Parker’s comments about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III “inappropriate” and said Thursday night that the network “is evaluating our next steps.”

Parker, in commentary on “First Take,” questioned RGIII’s blackness, asking, “Is he a brother or a cornball brother?” The comments came in reaction to an interview with Comcast SportsNet’s Chick Hernandez in which RGIII talked about his role as the leader of the Redskins and as an African-American.

“Whenever you can relate to the population of the team that you play for, I think it makes it that much more special,” Griffin said. “I don’t play too much into the color game, because I don’t want to be the best African American quarterback, I want to be the best quarterback.

“This is an interesting topic,” ESPN's Parker said. “For me, personally, just me, this throws up a red flag, what I keep hearing. 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.

“I understand the whole story of I just want to be the best,” Parker continued. “Nobody’s out on the field saying to themselves, I want to be the best black quarterback. You’re just playing football, right? You want to be the best, you want to throw the most touchdowns and have the most yards and win the most games. Nobody is [thinking] that.

“But time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him,” Parker went on. “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?”

What does that mean, Parker was asked.

“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 explained. “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.”

Why is that your question, Parker was asked.

“Well, because I want to find out about him,” Parker said. “I don’t know, because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which, there’s no information [about that] at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like I’ve got black skin but don’t call me black. So people got to wondering about Tiger Woods early on.”
Here's video of Parker's comment. The fact that this discussion even took place, and that Stephen A. Smith was the voice of reason, simply gives me more reasons to not tune into ESPN.

I'll admit something readily here: I've often wondered how Griffin's ultra-polished, do-no-evil, uber-disciplined military brat background plays in the Redskins locker room full of quasi-thugs like Santana Moss and Brandon Banks. That dynamic (middle classed black kid vs black kid from the hood') is one seldom explored in black culture. I'm not quite sure if that's what Parker meant by "cornball", but I suspect it is. Either way, whatever nuanced point he was attempting to get across got totally lost when he questioned whether Griffin was "down for the cause". That's some seriously stupid sh*t right there. "The Cause" is winning games. The team doesn't need RGIII to run a lunch counter sit-in or a bus boycott, they need him to run the football. He's pretty good at that (and throwing the football too). So Parker totally screwed the pooch from the jump.

Here's the real problem with what Rob Parker said: it's barbershop talk, not the kind of sh*t you say on national television when you essentially work for Disney. Do some (not all) black folks have a natural hesitance to trust brothas who only date white chicks? Sure, that happens. Do some black folks have a natural hesitance to trust brothas who speak "proper" English? Yep. Do some black folks have a natural hesitance to trust brothas who don't wear any facial hair? Indeed. But these are typically pointless conversations that take place "amongst family". I don't know Rob Parker, but it seems pretty clear that in his quest to "keep it trill", he sorta forgot where he was. There are some conversations (ie: darkskinned vs lightskinned) that you simply don't have "in front of company".

Of course, there's the issue of "blackness" and Parker's insinuation that Griffin doesn't "own" his (see: Woods, Eldrick) which is beyond silly. Griffin, in response to the original question, simply said he doesn't want to be defined only as "a black QB", which, given some of the historical stereotypes associated with black players at this position, makes plenty of sense. The fact that so many people are still comparing RGIII to a washed-up Mike Vick and the perpetually boneheaded Cam Newton is proof enough. Griffin's much more like Steve Young to my admittedly uneducated football eye. So I totally get his "I don't want to be defined only as a black QB" comment. As a person in corporate America who is irked at how often I'm mistaken for/compared to other black employees, I can relate. Wishing to be seen as "something more than just the black guy" is quite different from "not even wanting to be known as the black guy". Huge difference.

Parker, assuming he's "down for the cause", prolly shoulda understood this. Obviously, he either didn't, or pretended not to so he could say something sensational. Neither is excusable.

Good luck with that pink slip, Rob Parker. I hear the job market is hard out there for "real black" folks.

Question: What the heck was Rob Parker thinking? Are there some discussions that need to be kept "in the family" and not had "in front of company"? Do you have any idea what that last sentence meant?!?

[1] Those d*mn Wizards...

[2] Thanks to VLatte for the annual ticket hookup!

[3] Playing in a city where politics loom so large has also lead to an outbreak of stupid assed "RGIII as Obama" commentary. I also wish that sh*t would stop.

[4] Please note the term "winning". The Skins have had other black QB's in recent seasons. Rodney Peete. Tony Banks. Leon Murray. Jason Campbell. None of them bamas was any good, and black folks booed them just as badly as any other white QB.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.