You may have wondered if the comments made by Rob Parker on ESPN's "First Take" show last week regarding the subjects of race and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the legitimate furor those comments created, would force the network to stop and think about its craven and ceaseless hunt for ratings, no matter the method.
You now have an answer.
The network has issued a statement in which it announced that Parker will be suspended 30 days. He will then, presumably, return to television duty. ESPN first suspended Parker on Friday, Dec. 14, one day after he made the following comments about Griffin:
"I've talked to some people in Washington, D.C. Some people in [Griffin's] press conferences," Parker, when the subject of Griffin's "blackness" came up for some reason. "Some people I've known for a long time. My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is ... is he a 'brother,' or is he a cornball 'brother'? He's not really ... he's black, 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'd want to hang out with. I just want to find out about him. I don't know, because I keep hearing these things. He has a white fiancée, people talking about that he's a Republican ... there's no information at all. I'm just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Tiger Woods was like, 'I have black skin, but don't call me black.' People wondered about Tiger Woods early on -- about him."
ESPN re-ran Parker's comments live, and then on the re-air of its most ridiculous debate show on a network that is drowning in them. It took a full day for the network to release any sort of statement, and then, it was the sort of canned apology you might expect.
"Following yesterday's comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice. We are conducting a full review," spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.
What was ESPN reviewing? As it turns out, the network had more of a problem with the fact that the show slipped up in its alleged editorial policy. In the official announcement of Parker's suspension, Marcia Keegan, the vice president of production for ESPN who oversees "First Take," said far more about the show's mechanism than about the weight of Parker's comments.
"Our review of the preparation for the show and the re-air has established that mistakes both in judgment and communication were made," Keegan said. "As a direct result, clearly inappropriate content was aired and then re-aired without editing. Both were errors on our part. To address this, we have enhanced the editorial oversight of the show and have taken appropriate disciplinary measures with the personnel responsible for these failures.
"We will continue to discuss important issues in sports on 'First Take,' including race. Debate is an integral part of sports and we will continue to engage in it on 'First Take.' However, we believe what we have learned here and the steps we have taken will help us do all that better."
In other words, ESPN has learned nothing, and it will do nothing of substance to remedy a situation that clearly displays how far off the rails it has gone. There has been no intelligent statement about Parker's comments on the show, but that comes as no surprise. Parker will be back on that idiot box, spewing his formidably inaccurate and ridiculous pablum, and we'll all be worse for it.
SI.com's Richard Deitsch asked to speak with Keegan, but the network declined, saying "We are having her statement speak to the issue."
Her statement speaks volumes.
Parker, after leveling insults on social media to anyone who dared disagree with what he said, issued this statement on Twitter Wednesday:
"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."
No, Mr. Parker, you most certainly do not. Fortunately for you, however, you are employed and directed by people who are just as insensitive, unprofessional, unaware, and clueless as you are.
As my esteemed colleague Jay Busbee pointed out Wednesday, ESPN has a lot to be proud of. It created a culture by which sports coverage could thrive as never before, and it still produces impressive, prize-winning coverage. The question, still unanswered, is how long the network will let the "debate disease" eat away at all the things it has accomplished.
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