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ESPN Pundit Questioned Quarterback's Blackness

ESPN commentator Rob Parker was suspended Friday after igniting a firestorm when he questioned whether Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was a "real" black man.


Parker said Thursday on ESPN's "First Take," "Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?" Both men are African American.

"He's not real. OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause," Parker said. "He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else.

"We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about how he's a Republican … Tiger Woods was like, 'I've got black skin but don't call me black.' "


ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said in a statement, "Following yesterday's comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice. We are conducting a full review."

Griffin's father, Robert Griffin II, told USA Today that "he was baffled by the comments but wouldn't fire back Thursday night, even though Parker's remarks ignited the blogosphere and sparked angry social media responses," Jim Corbett reported for USA Today.

"A few minutes later after his father spoke, Griffin III tweeted to supporters: 'I'm thankful for a lot of things in life and one of those things is your support. Thank you.' "


Parker's comments have landed him in hot water before. In January 2009, Parker resigned as a sports columnist for the Detroit News after the criticism that followed asking losing Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli at a postgame news conference whether he wished his daughter had married "a better defensive coordinator."

Parker said then he "asked the people for a buyout and they granted me one" after the climate at the paper had deteriorated for him.

Less than two months before that, Parker apologized for implicating Michigan State University backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in an off-campus assault in a comment on WDIV-TV's "Clubhouse Confidential." Cousins now backs up Griffin for the


In 1991, Parker was brought up on charges by the Newspaper Guild for crossing picket lines during a bitter strike at the New York Daily News. The charges were later dropped, and Parker moved on to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Writing of Griffin in October in a 3,600-word profile in the Washington Post, Dave Sheinin said, ". . . He was raised in a military household, by two now-retired Army sergeants who taught him to see the world without much regard to race, and those lessons continue to inform his worldview as a young adult

" 'My parents raised me to not ever look at race or color,' Griffin said recently, 'so it doesn't have a big part in my self-identity. [But] I think it has played a big part in how other people view me, just going back to when I was a kid, to even now, doing the things that I've been able to do. As an African American, I think other people view that in a different way than I do.'. . . "


In the Washington Post, Dan Steinberg recounted Thursday's "First Take" exchange:

". . . Panelist Rob Parker was asked, 'What does this say about RGIII?"

" 'This is an interesting topic,' Parker said. 'For me, personally, just me, this throws up a red flag, what I keep hearing. And I don't know who's asking the questions, but we've heard a couple of times now of a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people.


" 'I understand the whole story of I just want to be the best,' Parker continued. 'Nobody's out on the field saying to themselves, I want to be the best black quarterback. You're just playing football, right? You want to be the best, you want to throw the most touchdowns and have the most yards and win the most games. Nobody is [thinking] that.

" 'But time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him,' Parker went on. 'And I've talked to some people down in Washington D.C., friends of mine, who are around and at some of the press conferences, people I've known for a long time. But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?'

"What does that mean, Parker was asked.

" '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,' Parker explained. '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.'


"Why is that your question, Parker was asked.

" 'Well, because I want to find out about him,' Parker said. 'I don't know, because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about he's a Republican, which, there's no information [about that] at all. I'm just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like I've got black skin but don’t call me black. So people got to wondering about Tiger Woods early on.'

"Then Skip Bayless asked Parker about RGIII's braids.

" 'Now that's different,' Parker said. 'To me, that's very urban and makes you feel like…wearing braids, you're a brother. You're a brother if you've got braids on.'


"Then Stephen A. Smith was asked for his take. He exhaled deeply.

" 'Well first of all let me say this: I'm uncomfortable with where we just went,' Smith said. 'RGIII, the ethnicity, the color of his fiancée is none of our business. It's irrelevant. He can live his life any way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that's his business, that’s his life. I don't judge someone's blackness based on those kind of things. I just don't do that. I'm not that kind of guy.

" 'What I would say to you is that the comments he made are fairly predictable,' Smith went on. 'I think it's something that he may feel, but it's also a concerted effort to appease the masses to some degree, which I'm finding relatively irritating, because I don't believe that the black athlete has any responsibility whatsoever to have to do such things. . . . ' "


"Late Thursday, Parker remained confident there would be no disciplinary action taken," Todd Johnson reported for the Grio. "When a Twitter user sarcastically wished Parker 'good luck' in his 'next line of work,' Parker shot back:

"Typical silly response. Watch me on First Take tomorrow and Sat.#pleze"

Michael Cottman, Black America Web: Black Women: Is RG3 Down With Me? (Dec. 10)

Eric Deggans blog, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Hey ESPN: Don't fire Rob Parker for his "cornball brother" comments; learn to talk about race better


Jose de Jesus Ortiz, Houston Chronicle: Controversial ESPN comments about RGIII stir unfortunate race debate

School Shooting Moves Ethics Questions Up Front

"'There's a lot of trying to shield the children from the eyes of the media,' ABC News reported in the aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting, describing the scene," Joanne Ostrow reported Friday for the Denver Post.


"There was a lot of shoving of microphones in the faces of the children, too.

"Shielding and shoving, the media plays its part in what has now become a too-well-rehearsed ritual.

"Television did its usual best and worst Friday morning to relay information of the latest national horror. For hours, a confusing array of raw information, much of it unconfirmed, was pushed through social media and TV outlets. More questions than answers kept the spectacle a blur. Were there multiple shooters? How many fatalities? How many of them children? Did the killer or killers have a connection to the school?


"On CNN, Soledad O'Brien said, 'we want to remind viewers this is raw reporting from various networks, we cannot independently confirm.'

"In special reports pre-empting regular programming, news anchors used the media's familiar backhanded trick of lamenting media intrusiveness while furthering media intrusiveness in the pursuit of information.

"Beyond the sickening events, beyond the much needed discussion of gun control, the Connecticut tragedy moved questions of journalistic ethics to the fore.


"Questions like: Does it serve any journalistic purpose to put children on live television in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting? Is it ethically [permissible] to put shocked parents on live TV, to give the nation a taste of the horror? . . . "

Autistic Self Advocacy Network: ASAN Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting

Marian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund: "Dear God! When Will It Stop?"

James Fallows, the Atlantic: American Exceptionalism: The Shootings Will Go On

Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic: The Case for More Guns (And More Gun Control)

Scott Hensley, NPR: How To Talk To Your Kids About The Conn. Shootings

Blair Hickman, Suevon Lee and Cora Currier, ProPublica: The Best Reporting on Guns in America


Rick Horowitz, YouTube: Just the Latest Mass Shooting (video)

Ezra Klein, Washington Post: Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Now Is the Time to Talk Guns, Mental Illness


Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: Connecticut Shooting Media Coverage Follows Tragically Familiar Script

Darryl E. Owens, Orlando Sentinel: Teen's death over loud music one more reason to change gun laws (Dec. 7)

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: As Fiscal Cliff Nears, Democrats Have Public Opinion on Their Side


Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Gun control? Maybe these kids are onto something (Dec. 4)

Kevin Powell, Daily Kos: The Connecticut Shooting: How Many More?

Nate Silver, New York Times: In Public 'Conversation' on Guns, a Rhetorical Shift


Al Tompkins, Poynter Institute: What journalists should know about school shootings and guns

Jeff Winbush blog: A Real American Horror Story

In '80s, Obama Says, He'd Be Called Moderate Republican

Tavis Smiley's radio partner Cornel West, the Princeton University professor, made headlines last month when West called President Obama a "Rockefeller Republican in blackface."


On Thursday, the president agreed with the first part of that phrase. In an interview with Alina Mayo Azze of Univision's Noticias Univision 23, Obama said, ". . . The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican. I mean, what I believe in is a tax system that is fair."

Azze asked Obama, " . . . why reach out to the local media? I'm from a local TV station in Miami, why reach out to us?"

Obama answered, "One thing that I found is so important during the course of the campaign is that the conversation here in Washington isn't the same as the conversation out in the country. The people are worried about paying their bills, about paying their mortgage, about the quality of their schools, about getting their kids to college, big potholes in roads, flooding, making sure that we have safe streets. And so when I — whenever I talk to local stations where what I find is the ability to reach more Americans, and in resolving issues like the fiscal cliff here, it's so important that members of Congress hear from people back home.


"So I'm hoping that if one thing comes out of this — this interview, I'm hoping that people will watch me and say, 'You know what? I want to reach out to my member of Congress and say, "Compromise. Let's go ahead and get this thing solved. Let's think about the country first and not politics first." ' "

Michael Gerson, Washington Post: The overlooked plight of black males

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: President Obama's Legacy: On Top of His Game?


Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Who's afraid of the fiscal cliff?

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Good pol should never say never (Dec. 9)

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Ready to jump from the 'fiscal cliff'

Tonyaa Weathersbee, Black America Web: The Obama Attacks Continue

Given African Past, Rice "Absolutely" Made Right Call

Howard W. French, New York Times bureau chief for West and central Africa in the 1990s and author of "A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa," wrote Dec. 3 about Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations then viewed as President Obama's choice to become the next secretary of state.


". . . In any discussion of Susan Rice's career, there is no escaping Africa," French, who now teaches at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, wrote in the Atlantic. "It is the place where she cut her teeth and built her essential record as a diplomat and national security official. Although there has been nary a hint of this in the fuss about Benghazi, I would go further still and say that one would be hard pressed to find anyone in American government who has played a larger and more sustained role in shaping Washington's diplomacy toward that continent over the last two decades."

U.S policy toward Africa ". . . remains mired in an approach whose foundation dates to the Cold War, when we cherry-picked strongmen among Africa's leaders, autocrats we could 'work with,' according to the old diplomatic cliché.

"These were men like Zaire's late dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, whose anti-democratic politics, systematic human rights violations, and high tolerance for corruption we were willing to overlook so long as they stayed on our side in the great strategic struggles of the day. We counted on them to hold down the fort in their respective countries and regions, and in so doing, as the thinking went, to protect U.S. interests."


Does that mean that Rice's announcement Thursday to withdraw her name from consideration for secretary of state was a good thing?

"Absolutely," French told Journal-isms by email. "Her legacy in Africa has been a very negative one."

Anson Asaka, Jack & Jill Politics: Why Didn't Obama Stand By Susan Rice?

Dylan Byers, Politico: Fox News slams Andrea Mitchell

Bonnie Newman Davis, the Grio: Susan Rice's withdrawal reminds us of Guinier, Elders and more


Keli Goff, the Root: Susan Rice: This Decade's Lani Guinier

Janaye Ingram, Loop21: Susan Rice and How Washington Works

Melody Johnson, Media Matters for America: Fox Uses Falsehood-Based Poll Questions To Back Up Its Phony Benghazi Scandal


John Prendergast, Daily Beast: Susan Rice's Middle Finger, and the World’s Deadliest Wars

Susan Rice, Washington Post: Why I made the right call

J. Christian Watts, Jack & Jill Politics: A Hell of a Day

Second Fired Shreveport Reporter "Trying to "Lie Low"

A second reporter at KTBS-TV in Shreveport, La., was fired for defending himself online, but unlike his former colleague Rhonda Lee, the meteorologist with the short Afro who has been the center of a media whirlwind, Chris Redford would rather not talk about it.


"I'm really just trying to lie low and keep things private right now," Redford, a crime reporter at the station, messaged Journal-isms on Friday.

However, Lylah M. Alphonse, senior editor of Yahoo! Shine, reported Friday, "one source with ties to the station tells Yahoo! Shine that Redford was fired without warning for responding to a personal attack on his own Facebook page.

" 'He is an openly homosexual man that denounced gay slurs left on same KTBS site,' the source, who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, wrote in an email to Yahoo! Shine. 'The only difference is he did not write on the KTBS Facebook page, he responded on his own PERSONAL FB page and was given NO prior warning.'


"Redford .  .  . was defending a straight coworker who was being harassed online, the source wrote. KTBS [general] manager George Sirven told Yahoo! Shine in an email that he had no comment.

"In November, Shreveport, Louisiana police arrested a local man accused of stalking Redford. 'KTBS gave emotional and financial support to white females that faced problems with stalking, but directed Chris Redford to ignore the public humiliation this man put him through,' the source told Yahoo! Shine."

Asked about an earlier report that he was dismissed "for using Facebook to respond to a reported gay stalker," Redford messaged Journal-isms, "I did not 'respond to a gay stalker.' "


Meanwhile, Jennifer Vanasco, writing Friday in Columbia Journalism Review, wrote that Lee should not have been fired.

". . . News organizations are not ordinary businesses. They have a duty to the public to inform and educate. What Rhonda Lee did in responding to those Facebook posts was correct misinformation on a Web page administered by the station as well as educate viewers about African American culture. Lee was using social media as a journalist; she did exactly what she should have," Vanasco wrote.

"But she shouldn't have needed to do anything, because the station should have responded first, either by taking the comments down (most organizations have a policy of deleting racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise inappropriate comments) or by replying in a way that supported its African American staff members and viewers."


More than 13,000 people have signed a petition to reinstate Lee.

China Daily Establishes African Edition

"China Daily, China's biggest English-language newspaper, has launched an African edition — the latest of several Chinese media initiatives in Africa," the BBC reported last week.


"The state-run weekly, which also comes in digital form, aims to explain 'the relationship between China and the African continent,' its editor says.

"China's CCTV and Xinhua news agency already have operations in the region.

" . . . 'The relationship between China and the African continent is one of the most significant relationships in the world today,' said the paper's publisher and editor-in-chief, Zhu Ling.


". . . China has also implemented other innovative media projects, like giant news screens in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, and thousands of scholarships for African journalists, reports BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper."

Last month, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. military's Africa command had established two newswebsites in Africa as part of a propaganda effort aimed at countering extremists in two of Africa's most dangerous regions — Somalia and the Maghreb. The sites' American origins are not immediately evident to viewers.

Magazine Publishes Mug Shots Even for Petty Crimes

". . . Last week, I stopped at a gas station on the South Side and a quirky magazine caught my eye," Mary Mitchell wrote Monday in the Chicago Sun-Times. "Nab Shot is a compilation of mug shots and bills itself as 'Chicago's Premier Crime Stopping Publication.'


"For $1, you can look at people arrested in a two-week period for offenses ranging from retail theft and prostitution to DUI and first-degree murder.

"The publisher, identified only as Jeff, said, 'What I am doing is exposing criminals and people that have been arrested. Bottom line, I am just putting everybody's business out there.'

"That idea is actually a throwback to the 'Evening Whirl,' a weekly publication Ben Thomas started in St. Louis in 1938. Thomas developed a strong following by dishing up sordid details of crime, scandal and gossip going on in the black community. . . . "


Right-to-Work Laws Originated With Segregationists

"This week, Republican lawmakers in Michigan — birthplace of the United Auto Workers and, more broadly, the U.S. labor movement — shocked the nation by becoming the 24th state to pass 'right-to-work' legislation, which allows non-union employees to benefit from union contracts," Chris Kromm wrote Thursday for the Institute for Southern Studies.

"While Michigan's momentous decision has received widespread media attention, little has been said about the origins of 'right-to-work' laws, which find their roots in extreme pro-segregationist and anti-communist elements in the 1940s South.


" . . . Civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., who saw an alliance with labor as crucial to advancing civil rights as well as economic justice for all workers, spoke out against right-to-work laws; this 1961 statement by King was widely circulated this week during Michigan's labor battles:

" 'In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights."

Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Right-to-work for Christmas: The Labor Scrooge lives in Michigan and maybe in our communities


Short Takes

To look through the fall 2012 newsletter [PDF] of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University is to see a faculty and staff that seems to lack people of color. "We have had many among the fellows" in the past, though there is "no one on the staff at this time," Alex S. Jones, the former New York Times reporter who is director of the center, told Journal-isms by telephone on Friday. Jones said there are only four fellows and noted that the center does not have quotas. Turnover among the staff is slow. Still, he said that the organization is "mindful of gender and race" and that "you can expect to find people of color when we can and to make the diversity broadly defined. If you will look over our history, you will see that we have had people of color represented and we will again."

"NBC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo has been named the anchor of the early-morning NBC program 'Early Today,' which airs at 4 AM ET and MSNBC's early news show 'First Look,' which airs at 5 AM ET," Alex Weprin reported Friday for TVNewser. "She will continue in her role as a correspondent, contributing to all of the NBC News platforms and programs."


"Blacks are barely represented on the air and in management at Twin Cities television and radio stations," Charles Hallman reported Wednesday for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. "The MSR recently examined four local station websites — WCCO (Channel 4), KSTP (Channel 5), KMSP (Channel 9), and KARE (Channel 11) and found: WCCO: one Black female anchor, one Black anchor/reporter, one Black reporter. KSTP: No Blacks. KMSP: One Black reporter. KARE: No Blacks."

"If a notable woman dies and a major national newspaper doesn't report it, did it actually happen?" Dana Liebelson asked Wednesday in Mother Jones. "Big papers' lists of significant deaths in 2012 overwhelmingly feature men. The Washington Post put 18 women and 48 men on its list. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times listed 36 women and 114 men. And lest you think this is some kind of freak 2012 phenomenon, the New York Times has consistently listed many more men than women over the last five years."

"Django Unchained: The TV One Special," a one-hour "profound and revealing look at the making of Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film Django Unchained " airs Saturday at 7 p.m. ET and Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, TV One announced. Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the cable network, "asks filmmaker Quentin Tarantino about why he wrote and directed this controversial and never before told story about one of the most shameful and difficult times in American history." The movie features Jamie Foxx as a slave who kills white men to free his wife from the clutches of a sadistic plantation owner.


Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jenice Armstrong Friday announced the 10 winners of the paper's third annual, Oprah-style My Favorite Things holiday-gift giveaway. "Thank you to everyone who nominated deserving neighbors, friends and co-workers. We had a couple of hundred entries, and narrowing the list down to just 10 names was a challenge," Armstrong wrote.

"On the New Orleans radio show 'Out to Lunch' Monday, business manager David Francis said The Times-Picayune's print circulation has gone up since it cut print frequency," Andrew Beaujon reported Friday for the Poynter Institute. " 'I will tell you that we've been pleasantly pleased with what we've seen since Oct. 1, when we launched the three-day-a-week newspaper,' he told host Peter Ricchiuti."

T.J. Holmes left CNN, where he was a weekend anchor, for BET, which developed a daily late-night show for him that has since been scaled back to once a week. "Don't Sleep" was partly inspired by Comedy Central's "the Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Now the Daily News in New York, citing "industry sources," reports that Jeff Zucker, CNN's new chief, "is looking to liven up the ailing channel's late-night slate with a news-driven satire program, like 'The Daily Show' . . . "


In Charlotte, N.C., "Radio personality Ramona Holloway has been named the new co-host of 'Charlotte Today,' the lifestyle and entertainment show that airs on WCNC-TV," April Bethea reported Thursday for the Charlotte Observer.

"Mexico's regional newspapers are publishing more stories about murders linked to the drug trade, but they remain reluctant to write what they know about the organizations responsible for the killings," Stephen Engelberg reported Thursday for ProPublica. "A new study by our colleagues at Fundación MEPI, an investigative journalism center in Mexico City, reviewed daily coverage in 14 of 31 Mexican states. It found a significant increase in the number of stories on organized crime groups. But the study says that only two newspapers, El Norte in Monterrey and El Informador in Guadalajara 'provided context to the violence, identified the victims and did follow-ups. . . . ' "

"An Equality Matters analysis found that cable news networks' coverage of the reemergence of Uganda's proposed 'Kill the Gays' bill — legislation which would make homosexuality punishable by death — has been scant over the past several weeks and paled in comparison to their coverage of the Korean pop song 'Gangnam Style,' " according to, "a new media and communications initiative in support of gay equality." The bill was officially moved to the bottom of the Parliament's schedule on Thursday.


"Reporters Without Borders is saddened to learn that the journalist Al-Hosseiny Abu Deif died yesterday in central Cairo's El Qasr Al Aini Hospital of the serious head injury he received while covering clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo in the early hours of 6 December," the press freedom group reported on Thursday. "Hospitalized in a critical condition after a rubber bullet was fired at his head at close range, Deif never recovered consciousness."

". . . HuffPost Media Group is partnering with Japan's Asahi Shimbun Company to make the Japanese-language version of the HuffPost happen. As for when the site will launch, well, that's still being worked out. However, HuffPost officials are still excited about it," Chris O'Shea reported Thursday for FishbowlNY.

An item in an early version of this column about Tavis Smiley and a Los Angeles radio host has been withdrawn. Journal-isms will return to the topic in a future column.


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.