ESPN announced Thursday that it is suspending commentator Rob Parker for 30 days over his on-air remarks about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, tightening editorial oversight of the “First Take” show and taking “appropriate disciplinary measures” against employees who played a role in allowing Parker’s remarks on the air.
On Dec. 13, Parker questioned whether Griffin was a “real” black man and was suspended “until further notice” two days later. ESPN said it was “conducting a full review.”
Parker had defended his remarks before the suspension, but he apologized on Wednesday, saying in an extended Twitter message, “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. . . .”
Some, such as Sam Laird of the Mashable website, expected a worse fate for Parker. “ESPN is now reportedly considering firing Parker altogether,” Laird wrote on Wednesday.
Others questioned whether “First Take” itself should be reined in, saying the program’s atmosphere was too freewheeling.
Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports wrote Saturday, “. . . those within the network who have decided to abdicate any sense of journalistic responsibility in favor of a craven desire for ratings and ‘buzz’ should probably take a few minutes and consider that they created and nourished an environment by which Rob Parker, who had made multiple professional missteps before, could thrive by saying stupid stuff and getting away with it.”
ESPN addressed that sentiment in its Thursday statement from Marcia Keegan, a vice president of production for ESPN, who oversees First Take:
“ESPN has decided to suspend Rob Parker for 30 days for his comments made on last Thursday’s episode of First Take. Our review of the preparation for the show and the re-air has established that mistakes both in judgment and communication were made. As a direct result, clearly inappropriate content was aired and then re-aired without editing. Both were errors on our part.