Analyzing the Race and Culture at ESPN

Mustard Seeds - Rob Parker RGIII


If you really want to understand the ludicrousness surrounding the situation that was Rob Parker’s old school racist tirade against (yes, against) Robert Griffin III last week, all you have to do is read Clinton Yates’s column on RGIII and black athletes in football from August 21.

No surprise, the apple of Yates’s eye that day was another personality on ESPN’s First Take — Skip Bayless — and his rather not-careful choice of words. His column highlights the issue at large that led Parker to go even further in December. It also shows off the problem in its full scope. Or, at least, some of it.

The real problem is this: why is this even a talking point? Why are the questions concerning Robert Griffin III’s ethnicity and his abilities even being basked? And, why does Stephen A. Smith always respond in a less-than-satisfactory way?

Here’s Yates talking about Bayless’s comments in August:

“Bayless said, in an apparent attempt to gin up a quarterback controversy in the District based on race, said: ‘You also have the black/white dynamic, and the majority of Redskins fans are white, and it’s just human nature if you’re white to root for the white guy. It just happens in sports. Just like the black community will root for the black quarterback.’

“To be fair, I don’t entirely disagree with him on the notion that people of one color are inclined to root for players who look like them. But what he said next was absolutely outrageous.

“‘I’m for the black guy,’ Bayless added. The. Black. Guy.”

So, you see… they’re all a little racist. It’s okay.

But, there is a problem here. It’s not just at ESPN. It’s everywhere in this post-apocalyptic (aka post-newspaper-reading) world. There’s a problem when people like Rob Parker and Skip Bayless are so worried about being politically correct that they then over-compensate and turn into 18th century plantation owners or the Alabama State Police in 1960.

There’s a problem when everyone in America — including everyone on TV — can use every single racial stereotype and pun and hurl it at Jeremy Lin, and then an online copywriter can get thrown under the bus for a mistake involving one of the most commonly used idioms in the English language.

(That would be “chink in the armour”.)

There’s a disconnect between the people with larger paychecks — i.e. Bayless and Stephen A. Smith — and the ones who don’t matter — interns and Rob Parker — and how ESPN and the other networks treat them and handle their indiscretions.

How was what Bayless said any better than what Jimmy the Greek said?

Really, how far have we come?