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Rob Parker on RGIII’s blackness
Dec-13-2012 1623 0


Robert Griffin III has been asked about his race repeatedly this season. He has not, to my knowledge, ever brought the subject up himself. Every time he’s been asked about it, he has managed to appear thoughtful and considerate without possibly offending anyone.

I’m not sure he’s ever handled the race question better than on last week’s Comcast SportsNet special, when Chick Hernandez talked about being a black quarterback in D.C.

“Whenever you can relate to the population of the team that you play for, I think it makes it that much more special,” Griffin said. “I don’t play too much into the color game, because I don’t want to be the best African American quarterback, I want to be the best quarterback.

“But to the fans, and to the fans who think that way and look at me as an African American, it’s important that I succeed, not only for this team, but for them,” he continued. “Because it gives them that motivation, that hey, you know, an African American went out and played quarterback for my Washington Redskins. So I appreciate that; I don’t ever downplay anything like that. Whoever I can go out every week and motivate to do better and to try to go after their dreams, I’m up for that.”

Again, I don’t know how he could possibly have handled that issue — which he did not raise himself — any better.

But people keep asking. The rookie was asked about race yet again on Wednesday, this time by an ESPN reporter. He delivered a similar answer. It was an answer that showed he’s actually thought about the issue, but it was steadfastly non-controversial.

“I am [aware] of how race is relevant to [some fans]. I don’t ignore it,” Griffin said Wednesday. “I try not to be defined by it, but I understand different perspectives and how people view different things. So I understand they’re excited their quarterback is an African American. I play with a lot of pride, a lot of character, a lot of heart. So I understand that, and I appreciate them for being fans.”

Well. This led to a Thursday discussion on First Take, ESPN’s abysmal debate program. 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.

“Let me say this clearly. I don’t know of anybody who goes into something trying to be the best black anything. We understand that. That’s a given,” Smith said. “But I do think it’s important to acknowledge a level of pride and a feeling of a level of accomplishment for being somebody who happens to be of African American descent, who competes and achieves and accomplishes things on the highest level while also bringing attention – to some degree anyhow – to the pride that they feel being black. Because they’re allowing themselves to be a reminder to those who preceded them, who worked so hard, accomplished and achieved so much, but were denied the accolades that that individual is receiving.”

Later, Parker was given an opportunity to clarify whether he was judging Griffin’s blackness.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said. “We could sit here and be honest, or we can be dishonest. And you can’t tell me that people in the barbershops or people that talk, they look at who your spouse is. They do. And they look at how you present yourself. People will say all the time, you’re not gonna get a job in corporate America wearing those braids. It happens all the time. Let’s not act like it doesn’t, because it does.”

The only conclusion I’m willing to make about all of this is that the show would have been much more thoughtful had Griffin been on the panel. Or had he replaced the panel.


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Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett accused Las Vegas police on Wednesday of racially motivated excessive force, saying he was threatened at gunpoint and handcuffed following a report of gunshots at an after-hours club at a casino-hotel.

Bennett said on a Twitter message titled "Dear World," that police "singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Police later attributed a report of gunfire at Drai's at the Cromwell resort to the sharp sound of velvet rope stands being knocked to a tile floor. It happened a few hours after the Aug. 26 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.

Bennett, a 6-foot-4 (193 centimeters) defensive end who has been a leader of the national anthem protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick , said he was among several hundred people running away.

He said he was handcuffed face-down on the ground after an officer held a gun to his head saying he would blow his head off if he moved.

"All I could think of was 'I'm going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat,'" he wrote. He said he thought of his wife and children.

Bennett said he was taken to the back of a police car "until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player." He was released without charges.

Las Vegas police Officer Jacinto Rivera said police were checking for casino and police body camera video and written reports. He said the department couldn't immediately verify Bennett's account or identify the officers involved.

"Without looking at video footage or reading any reports we can't say yet what happened," Rivera said.

A video posted by celebrity news site TMZ shows a view from a balcony as a police officer kneels on the back of a man who looks like Bennett. Protests are heard, including, "I wasn't doing nothing," and, "I was here with my friends. They told us to get out and everybody ran."

Bennett's attorney, John Burris in Oakland, California, confirmed the words were Bennett's. The attorney said he believed the 30-second video clip showed some of how his client was treated.

"We think there was an unlawful detention and the use of excessive force, with a gun put to his head," Burris told The Associated Press. "He was just in the crowd. He doesn't drink or do drugs. He wasn't in a fight. He wasn't resisting. He did nothing more or less than anyone in the crowd."

Burris said Bennett waited to make public his account of the incident until after Burris contacted Las Vegas police last week by letter and email, seeking police records of Bennett's detention.

Bennett's brother, Martellus Bennett, who plays for the Green Bay Packers, posted an Instagram account of a telephone call he said he got from Michael Bennett. He said he heard fear in his brother's voice.

"The emotion and the thought of almost losing you because of the way you look left me in one of the saddest places ever," Martellus Bennett said.

Michael Bennett has been one of the most outspoken pro athletes on numerous social issues. Last month, he held a benefit for the family of a pregnant black woman who was fatally shot by two white Seattle police officers in June. Police said the woman threatened the officers with at least one knife after calling 911 to report that someone had broken into her apartment and stolen video-game consoles.

"For me it's always finding a way to impact the community on every single level; locally, nationally, and globally," Bennett said following the benefit. "To be able to have something happen in your city and to be able to build a bridge between people regardless of color, regardless of gender, and regardless of economic hardships, you want to be able to bring people together and be able to do something for kids."

Advocates on Wednesday cited Bennett's treatment by police as an illustration of troubled race relations in America.

Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter advocacy group, called it "a testament to the police violence targeting black people in the United States."

Cullors endorsed an online petition calling for Las Vegas police to release information about what she called an assault on Bennett.

Jocelyn Benson, chief executive of the nonprofit Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, released a statement crediting Bennett with "courage and leadership in addressing issues of racial injustice in our country."

"The revelation of Michael Bennett's terrifying experience with Las Vegas police officers last month underscores the need to continue fighting against racial profiling and inequality," Benson said.
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Tom O'Connor Sep-03-2017 372 0
The White House announced Friday it's switching up the format of an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and representatives of historically black colleges. The move comes as his administration continues to face deep criticism over its polarizing views on race relations in the U.S.

While the White House statement did not detail what modifications were being made, it did hint that the administration was looking to downsize Trump's meeting with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs). Trump found early success in reaching out to these schools, which were at times critical of his predecessor, but the Republican leader's attacks on their funding, controversial comments following last month's deadly white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia and his poor approval rating among black communities in general have strained this relationship.

"Responding to suggestions and feedback from many key stakeholders, the White House initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will modify its planned conference to best meet the current needs of HBCUs, their students and the broader HBCU community, " the administration said.

"This more intimate HBCU week will feature a series of strategic meetings for students and leaders to share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges facing the HBCU community. The events will also focus on how the Administration can best work and support HBCU schools and students," it added.

Just over a month after coming to office earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order designed to boost federal funds for HCBUs. The move was seen as an opportunity for the Trump administration to win support of an influential black organization that often criticized his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for not sufficiently addressing the community's needs, despite him being the first black U.S. president. Trump's support, however, was short-lived.

The administration did not increase funds and actually cut Pel grant reserves and other crucial investment HBCUs had asked for, according to The Washington Post. In May, Trump signed a federal budget that controversially included language at the end suggesting he questioned the constitutionality of funding black colleges in the first place.

Recent national events have also highlighted the president's troubled relationship with a community he once famously tried to court on the campaign trail a year ago by asking "What the hell do you have to lose?"

On August 12, a man with white supremacist sympathies ran over a crowd of counter-protesters who were demonstrating against a massive far-right rally that swept the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was killed and over a dozen more injured. Trump condemned violence "on both sides" of the rally, remarks that garnered him considerable scorn even from within his own party.

These troubles have followed him to Washington. The Congressional Black Caucus may soon become one of the leading voices on the Hill calling for Trump's removal from office. Democratic Representative and Black Caucus leader Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said last month he was considering joining existing efforts to remove the president due to issues with Trump's "competency and fitness to serve."

He also vowed that the caucus would "keep its foot on the Trump administration’s neck by calling their racist and discriminatory policies what they are."

A poll released earlier this week by The Economist and market research company YouGov revealed that 57 percent of people in the U.S. think Trump doesn't care about the needs of black people. Among black respondents, three out of four said he either didn't care much or "not at all."


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