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ESPN panelist suspended after RGIII comments

Friday - 12/14/2012, 12:41pm  ET

Conversation was a 'big step backward'

Clinton Yates, opinion writer, The Washington Post

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UPDATE: Friday - 12/14/2012, 12:34pm ET

WASHINGTON- ESPN anchor Rob Parker has been suspended, according to ESPN. The announcement comes less than 24-hours after Parker made controversial comments about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

EARLIER: Friday - 12/14/2012, 9:31am ET

WASHINGTON - An ESPN panelist's racial comments Thursday about quarterback Robert Griffin III have sparked a larger conversation that has many cringing.

On ESPN's "First Take," a debate-based talk show, Rob Parker questioned whether the Redskins rookie was "a brother." Parker acknowledged his question was based on "things he heard" from acquaintances he has in Washington.

Parker's question, "Is he a brother or a cornball brother?" garnered a strong response on Twitter.

When asked for further clarification about the question on the show, Parker explained:

"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 said. "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 something else."

When asked why he was asking the question, Parker responded, "I want to find out about him. I don't know because I keep hearing these things."

Parker noted that Griffin's fiancée is white and that the quarterback may be a Republican.

"I'm just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue because we did find out with Tiger Woods - Tiger Woods was like ... 'I got black skin but don't call me 'black,'" Parker said. "So people wondered about Tiger Woods early on, about him."

Parker's comments come a day after RGIII was quoted in a USA Today interview talking about race.

"For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin," Griffin said after practice on Wednesday in reference to a question about Martin Luther King, Jr. "You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That's what I've tried to go out and do," Griffin said.

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg notes in his column about the controversy that Griffin has been asked multiple times about his race as it relates to his position in the community and in his profession.

On "First Take," commentator Stephen A. Smith responded to Parker, making it clear he was uneasy about where the conversation was going.

"Well, first of all let me say this: I'm uncomfortable with where we just went," Smith said.

The Post quotes Smith went on to say:

"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," Smith said.

WTOP reached Smith for comment. He said he was "booked up" and unavailable to comment today. Smith also noted that he would need ESPN approval to grant interviews on a fellow employee's remarks.

David Scott with ESPN tells WJLA Parker's comments were "inappropriate" and that ESPN is "evaluating our next steps."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)