To a black ESPN sports analyst, this is the critical question: Is Robert Griffin III, aka RG III, the black rookie sensation Washington Redskins quarterback, "a brother, or is he a cornball brother?" What has RG III done or said to raise a suspicion about his bona fides as a black person? More importantly, what does this have to do with appreciating — or choosing not to appreciate — Griffin as an athlete?
Turns out RG III fancies himself as a quarterback who happens to be black — as opposed to a black quarterback. When asked for the millionth time about his status as a "black quarterback," Griffin responded: "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."
And, when asked at a press conference about Martin Luther King Jr., RG III said: "For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin. You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That's what I've tried to go out and do. I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don't have to be defined by that."
Such an attitude doesn't cut it with ESPN's Rob Parker, who in addition to the "cornball brother" comment, said: "OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else. ... We all know he has a white fiancee. Then there was all this talk about him being a Republican."
Griffin is a winner so popular his jersey set a single-year NFL record for sales. Elected high school class president, RG III ranked seventh in his class, graduated a semester early and began college at 17. He graduated from Baylor University in three years with a degree in political science, a 3.67 GPA and two appearances on the Dean's List. He took graduate courses during his fourth year. He is the youngest of three children — his mother and father both sergeants in the Army. He's had the same girlfriend since college.
Yep, RG III's practically a degenerate.
Parker's comments got him suspended for 30 days. He wrote this apology: "I blew it and I'm sincerely sorry. 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."
But what Parker said about RG III is standard operating procedure for the hosts and pundits on MSNBC and other outlets, who question the "blackness" of "inauthentic blacks" like Herman Cain, Allen West and Clarence Thomas.
Where's the apology from, let alone suspension for, the following?
MSNBC contributor Karen Finney, who said about Republican Herman Cain: "I think he makes that white Republican base of the party feel OK, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy. I think he is giving that base a free pass, and I think they like him because they think he is a black man who knows his place."
MSNBC's Martin Bashir, who said: "Mr. Cain was supposed to attend the dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial on Sunday ... but he failed to attend. Now there's been some surprise at his absence. But being honest, isn't this consistent for a man who really doesn't want to be overtly associated with African-Americans?"
MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who told black former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele that his party was "the Grand Wizard crowd."
HBO's Bryant Gumbel, who on his "Real Sports" program, said that he wouldn't watch the Winter Olympics: "Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention."
It took the bigoted treatment of RG III to make some people wake up and smell the ideological totalitarianism. Maligning a black person for "not being black enough" is a hideous form of bigotry, the antithesis of what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.
Will ESPN send Parker to "sensitivity training," where many companies send their white bigots?
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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