When ESPN provocateur Rob Parker questioned yesterday whether Redskins rookie phenom Robert Griffin III is black enough, the reaction was about what one would expect it to be: swift condemnation of the idiocy Parker spewed, with some pointing out that it was merely the latest in a long, storied tradition of Parker idiocy. (Parker’s reaction was also what one would expect it to be: ridiculing those who called him out, with no actual substance – not that substance is easy to do on Twitter, in fairness.)
Perhaps more interestingly, though, Parker’s comments also produced an official ESPN response. First, a statement called them “inappropriate” and said ESPN was weighing its options for what to do next. And today, they handed down a verdict:
Following yesterday’s comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice.We are conducting a full review.
— Mike Soltys (@espnmikes) December 14, 2012
And we can only hope that full review takes into account the context in which Parker said what he did. Not because he’d be vindicated – it was hackery of the worst kind no matter how you look at it – but because First Take itself would be damned. Rob Parker exists to troll. Don’t think so? Do you need to see those tweets about baseball stats again? The only way Parker’s RGIII foolishness differed from his usual act was the subject matter. Race is an especially sensitive subject, so people got pissed enough that ESPN couldn’t afford not to act against Parker in some way, lest bosses’ asses remain uncovered.
But make no mistake: Parker putting garbage on television is a problem, but the bigger problem is that he has an outlet to do it at all. First Take exists to get people riled up. That’s why it puts Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith out there to yell at each other every day, that’s why the show sucks and I try not to watch it if at all possible, and it’s why they have Parker on, too.
I wasn’t in the production meeting before yesterday’s First Take aired, so I can’t say exactly what they talked about in there. It’s very possible the words “cornball brother” never came up. But it’s highly likely they talked about the upcoming RGIII discussion in some detail. They had the onscreen graphic ready to go when his name came up, and everything. Parker’s nonsense didn’t pop up out of thin air – this is what they were planning to do, and at least for a while, no one at ESPN seemed to have a problem with it.
So that full review ESPN’s conducting, if it’s worth much, will carefully consider that Parker said what he said because that, essentially, is what ESPN pays him to do. He just didn’t do it right this time. First Take needs to fundamentally change its mission not to be conducive to this sort of controversy. If it doesn’t (and it won’t), if Parker is back on in a while joining the rest of the First Take crew in desperately crying for America’s attention, then it’ll be clear that the suspension, and review, were purely for show. And we’ll eagerly await the next time Parker, or anyone on the program, says something done. When it happens, will we have any outrage left to waste on this stupid show?
(UPDATE: Just seeing this now, but Time’s Sean Gregory hit on many similar points made in this post in a piece he wrote. You can see that piece here.)