Robert Griffin III strives to be the best quarterback in football.
He does not strive to be the best black quarterback in football.
It’s a perfectly reasonable and normal goal to have.
Just as a sportswriter presumably would want to be known as a respected journalist or writer or columnist — not solely a respected black journalist.
ESPN’s ‘First Take’ program features a daily dose of sports topics debated and discussed exhaustively by hosts. Sometimes, the result is entertaining and other times — well, it’s downright painful.
Thursday, Rob Parker’s comments were downright painful to hear.
On the subject of the Redskins star rookie quarterback ‘not wanting’ to be solely defined by race, Parker said:
“But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?”
He painfully continues:
“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.”
“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.”
Parker wasn’t in the barbershop (as he referenced towards the end of his comments) — he was on national television. His comments weren’t painful because of the subject matter — race should be discussed and mentioned as it relates to sports when appropriate. The comments were painful because they were delivered irresponsibly.
When you talk about race without context — when you just merely mention things like: “We all know [Griffin] has a white fianceé” or he may be “Republican” – - you don’t advance any type of dialogue, you hinder it.
And that’s irresponsible.
Griffin hasn’t denied he’s black. He hasn’t denied his impact on DC’s black Redskins fans. When asked, he’s answered those questions candidly and responsibly.
“But to the fans, and to the fans who think that way and look at me as an African-American [quarterback], it’s important that I succeed, not only for this team, but for them,” he continued.
“Because it gives them that motivation, that hey, you know, an African-American went out and played quarterback for my Washington Redskins. So I appreciate that; I don’t ever downplay anything like that. Whoever I can go out every week to do better and to try to go after their dreams, I’m up for that.”
When commentators like Parker ‘go there’ — talk about race irresponsibly — the impact is not just an unfair slight to RGIII. It leads to more of the same criticisms when media members ‘attempt’ to discuss race. Instead of thoughtful conversation, irresponsible commentary leads to rebuke (as it should) and a score of “Commentator questions RGIII’s blackness” type headlines.