One day. One man. Two opposite views of Robert Griffin III.
Georgetown public relations grad student Beth Jarvis praised the Redskins quarterback in a Letter to the Editor of The Washington Post today (Page A18, Thursday, December 13, 2012). Ms. Jarvis did not set out just to applaud Griffin for his on-field exploits. As a Communications major, she marveled at his innate skill of finding the right touch for every crisis.
"His courageous display after injuring his knee Sunday helped the Washington Redskins achieve a victory and solidified his standing as an inspirational leader and master brander.
"Already in his short NFL career, he has shown an ability to look adversity in the face and win that is becoming legendary. And, at age 22, he's just getting started.
"Tylenol, Toyota and US Airways are generally the case studies we cite in classes when talking about stellar crisis-communications plans. Even though RGIII is a rookie, I think it's time to add him as a case study to our [Georgetown] curriculum."
What a neat letter about one who has impressed Redskins fans since his college football bowl game to now. I mentally filed it away as a story idea of yet another example of how the cultural significance of Griffin III is greater than his role as athlete.
Griffin is a man with a plan beyond the NFL. He may well be positioning himself for the future, but his steps along that path feel genuine.
I was going to say that Griffin is an ideal that all
young people should aspire to be like. I was also going to warn that nobody is as perfect as Griffin appears. He's as human as everyone else is. It's inevitable that he will be knocked off the pedestal we've put him on. I suspect that will come in the future when the absolute adulation we dump on him corrupts him absolutely. But it may come from his past.
That guy who went to Baylor with Griffin thought he had something that was worth $1 million hush money. I do not care, nor wish to know, what that is. Whatever it is, I would see it as the ramblings of a teen-ager on his own for the first time, testing boundaries that once inhibited him and doing something he wouldn't want his mother to know.
I'm not guilty any such thing, of course, but have my doubts about the rest of you.
Race card about to ruin another career
That would have been the end of a cute little fluff piece. And then the matter took an ugly turn. Panelist Rob Parker asked on ESPN's First Take Show if RGIII was authentically black.
"But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?”
I've been black all my life, but have never heard the term "cornball brother." Griffin said several different times that his aim was to be world class at everything he tries and not to be constricted as the "best black" anything.
It goes beyond the pale (no pun intended) for Mr. Parker to wondere if Griffin was distancing himself from black people. Parker said this was not his idea – a clue that it really was. Parker heard it from others, so he check with friends in the DC area. He learned that Griffin is engaged to a white girl. Parker suspects him of being a Republican. And Griffin has braids. You can't be straight-laced and have braids. You just can't.
Rob Parker is a black racist. Yes, Virginia, you can be black and racist. In Parker's case, he –
• defined a role along racial lines that Griffin was supposed to play.
• exposed his own limiting stereotype of the "brothers" like him, I suppose.
• failed to expand his perception of young black men by dismissing Griffin's parentage, accomplishments and well-spoken thoughts.
Rob Griffin Sr on RParker:This gentleman's comments are not for me to expand on I have more important issues, Homeless Veterans etc @wusa9— David Owens (@DaveOwensWUSA) December 13, 2012
Parker said he spoke with friends. Hog Heaven would like him to name names. I'd like to know the dumbass local SOBs that would says such things. I mean, who wouldn't want to claim RGIII as their own?
Parker didn't use the N-word, or deny RGIII his financial due or block the entrance to Redskins Park with police dogs. Parker's statements weren't the vilest form of bigotry. They still were ugly, stupid, universally condemned and career damaging – to Parker.
That lesson should have been learned long ago when Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said something silly about breeding slaves to be outstanding athletes to explain why African-Americans were excelling in the NFL. Snyder meant it as a compliment, but he disappeared from broadcasting for that. (Black people call that the Mandingo effect. If you are black of a certain age, this needs no explanation.)
Don Imus made disparaging remarks about the Rutgers Women's Basketball team after the NCAA Championship Game, at one point referring to them as "nappy-headed ho's." Imus claimed he was mimicking hip-hop artists for the amusement of his audience. It's not OK with me when hip-hoppers say this.
Imus made a vain attempt to save his career through an appearance on Al Sharpton's radio show in New York. CBS suspended him anyway.
Poor Donovan McNabb caught it both ways. Rush Limbaugh accused McNabb of being an affirmative action prop of the NFL and the media.
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
It's always the media with Rush. His career as an ESPN football analyst ended shortly after his statement.
J. Whyatt Mondesire, owner of the black-oriented Philadelphia Sun newspaper and head of the local NAACP chapter heaped scorn on McNabb for lack of leadership in the Terrell Owens affair and the notion that McNabb did not run like a black quarterback. The national NAACP repudiated Mondesire and distanced itself from his statement.
Parker made his statement on ESPN's First Take, where host Skip Bayless maligned white Redskins fans predicting they would call for Kirk Cousins to replace RGIII if Cousins ever had a good game. Cousins had that good game against the Ravens.
There is no quarterback controversy in Washington. The white people who want to sit Griffin this Sunday fear that by playing him, the Redskins are risking the next ten years for football success.
Hog Heaven thinks little of Bayless and his less of Rob Parker. We suspect we will see less of Parker on ESPN.
Griffin III has said the three areas he would not comment on are race, religion and politics. Whenever he gets around to this, you may be sure of one thing. His response, as Ms. Jarvis has said, will be the right touch for the situation.
UPDATE: Add Rob Parker to the list of sports pundits suspended for disparaging Griffin in an artificial controversy. Race is an underlying issue in American society and it should be discussed more. But sports analysts are shallow thinkers by nature, and sports audiences flock to ESPN to escape real-world issues.
Sports is life in microcosm. Sometimes, an analyst has an insight in a sports moment that reflects a larger issue. It's a rare occasion, though. It's better for sports media to keep its eye on the ball for the escapism we crave.
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How can you simultaneously maintain that race is an issue that we should discuss more, but once someone say 'wrong' or 'offensive' they are railroaded out of town so fast they get whip lash?
It makes no sense.Yes, Rob Parker said stupid and racist things but we should use this as an opportunity to talk about racial issue. This would be a great moment to talk about how when black people do certain things (get educated, get a job as a professional, talk without using slang, vote republican) their blackness is called into question. This issue deserves exploration as it is self destructive and a detriment to the black community.
@cmccartn Thank you for commenting, cmc.
Race is a topic that should be discussed more openly. I believe (hope) it would lead to better understanding among people. But, sports talk shows are the worst possible place to do it.
First, sports talk shows are notorious for shallow thinking whether it's sports topics or societal issues. First Take is notorious for this for trolling for an audience with sensational "debate."
If you read comments on other blog posts about this, you will see that Parker unleashed a torrent of stereotypical blather that's unhelpful. The same of it is that if Parker weren't under pressure to stir the pot on a deadline, even he might have seen how foolish his premise was.
First Take was better off over-focusing on Tim Tebow and the Jets.
I'm speaking more to the firestorm afterwards, i think instead of taking the opportunity to slam Parker, I think it'd be a better chance for us to look at some serious issues
1) what does the term 'acting black' mean?
2) why does social pressure exist for blacks to act a certain way, or else lose their 'black credibility'
3) why is furthering one's education seen as being 'un-black'
these are important issues that are worthy of discussion once Parker made those stupid comments.
Very well written. Thank you. It is so true that once one moves beyond racism (frankly something our society inadvertently teaches), it becomes so shocking to realize how prevalent racially based thinking is, not in overt actions but in assumptions. What one assumes one should do based on the color of one's skin or what is abnormal for one to do based on one's skin (or gender, etc.). Can't Griffin be proud of being a person instead of trying to be proud as a black person? Of course Griffin is black. It is a part of who he is, but it does not define who he is or how he acts.
As our society moves forward I hope we will let people be people and stop this cultural construct of identifying, labeling, and categorizing based on race. As a former biology teacher, this is genetically as stupid as making assumptions based on whether you have an attached or free earlobe or if you have mid-digit hair (on the middle knuckle on each finger).
And one last thing, I have an interracial marriage and it doesn't make me less of who I am or my wife less of who she is, it just means we are people who care about each other. But, Parker's comments are not surprising about interracial marriage. Interracial marriages in Virginia where Parker is from and Georgia where I live only became legal in 1967 due to a supreme court case. I personally feel Parker and others who look down on interracial marriages or being engaged to someone of a different race are saying they don't want races to mix and again is an assumption about who we can or cannot be interested in based on our ethnicity which inherently is treating us differently based on race which is racism.
Thank you for writing.
Stereotyping is human nature. We categorize everything to make learning easy, say, for everything from what to expect from the weather, or from a discount store compared to a department story. The problem with doing it with people is that no two people are alike, even if they are within the same group.
Personal lesson: my best high school friend was (still is, I betcha) Chinese. Before meeting him, I vaguely bought that all Chinese people looked alike; just never thought about it. After I got to know my friend, no two Asian people ever again looked alike to me. I was shocked to learn some people on campus thought all black people looked alike. Stereotyping is lazy thinking and usually wrong when applied it to an individual.
"All," "them," and any notion of what groups are "supposed to be" should never be applied to real people.
My issue with Parker is that RGIII's background is close to my own. Griffin's family was more Dr. Huxtable than Good Times, if you recall those old TV shows. Parker allowed no room for that. Griffin's manners, attitude, professionalism are what all young people should aspire to be, especially African-American young men. As a, um, "seasoned" African-American, I am disappointed beyond words by what Parker said.
rush got hosed on that deal. he was telling the truth about the affirmative action nfl. they are so invested in having a black qb be successful. nevermind the fact that doug williams preceded all the black qbs of the modern era now. RG3 does not fit the stereotype of most black QBs or even most black people in general, at least according to this idiot. he should be canned yesterday for saying these things. why should RG3 have to be a democrat in order to be legit? that is ridiculous. this is precisely why the black community has had issues over the last 50 years. they have failed to lift up the successful of their flock when those successes don't fit in their molds. they have discounted the academic achievements of people such as griffin because it's not hip or cool to get good grades---that's what white kids are supposed to do but not the kids in the black community. how ridiculous. if they do not change their ways and stop relying on race cards and the inevitable race baiting industry (sharpton and jesse jackson), they will forever as a group be doomed.