Are You “Down With the Cause?”

Stacy Rush headshot

Stacy Rush is a contributor to The Brenner Brief.

While most in the media continue focusing on the Newtown massacre details and the gun control argument, an important story about racism is being under reported.

It is not the usual tale of racism heard in the media; rather, it is the type of story often ignored. The story of racism within the African-American community where men and women judge one another’s “blackness” by such standards as their hairstyle, their chosen partner, and their imagined or real political party affiliation, amongst other things.

I am a fan of all things football, but being an Atlanta native makes this a difficult road at times. This is a predicament shared by Washington Redskin fans. Year after year we loyally support our team through their mediocre-at-best season, leaving us filled with hope that next year will be our time.

Interestingly, 2012 has been a year of elevated play for each team. The Falcons playing up to their potential while the Redskins move into their division’s first place, led by quarterback extraordinaire, Robert Griffin, III, a.k.a. RGIII. While thrilled with the Falcons’ rise, I’ve equally enjoyed watching lifetime ‘skins’ fans light up like kids in a candy store over their QB. Along with most of the nation, I’m becoming a little more engaged with the Redskin’s season after each win.

To witness such a young man — 22 years old — turn around a team with his work ethic, skill and leadership is inspiring. RGIII is energizing a city, and recruiting fans nationwide with poise shown both on and off the field. Even Washington’s political superstars have taken notice, reflected by Marco Rubio’s response when he was asked at a POLITICO Playbook breakfast who he thought was the best leader in Washington. Rubio responded, “Robert Griffin, III.”

For those unfamiliar with RGIII, a snapshot of his impressive resume via Wikipedia follows:

  • Attended Copperas Cove High School, Texas
  • Graduated a semester early
  • Served as class president
  • Ranked seventh in his class
  • Graduated Baylor University in three years
  • Earned a political science degree, 3.67 GPA
  • 2011, first Baylor player to win the Heisman Trophy
This young man is the real deal. While not a fan of athletes, actors and musicians taking the place of parents as role models, RGIII is an athlete I’d like my kids to emulate as they approach their game of choice.

Adding such accomplishments to his football talent, the comments of ESPN contributor Rob Parker become all the more repugnant. Last week, the sports show First Take conducted panel discussions on various topics including RGIII’s responses during a recent press conference. Given the statements discussed were from a presser scheduled to provide an injury update of RGII’s knee, my first question is: why is his race being discussed at all? But I digress.

In the last minutes of the Q&A, framing his question around an upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. special, a reporter asked RGIII: “Many people in our society are defined by their race, and the fact that you have not allowed yourself to be defined by your race, how has that helped shape your identity?”RGIII replied: “For me, you don’t ever want to be defined by the color of your skin, 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. I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that.”Based on the above exchange and additional responses by Robert Griffin, III regarding his race, the host of First Take asks ESPN’s Rob Parker “what does this mean about RGIII?”

Parker’s complete response included saying that RGIII is not “really down with the cause,” is “not one of us” and “he’s kind of black, but he’s not really the guy you’d really want to hang out with.”

If these comments were not offensive enough, Parker goes on to comment on the quarterback’s fiancé. She is white. RGII’s is thought to be a Republican, although Parker is quick to point out there is no proof of this. Whew, thank God, I was worried. I’m curious, does anyone else find irony in Parker assuming RGIII is a Republican based on the quarterback desiring to be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin? Where have I heard these words before?

As a result of Parker’s vile comments, ESPN finds itself in an awkward position. Given, they fired Rush Limbaugh for making comments found racially insensitive. So now, what to do about this pesky situation?

While I think Parker’s comments were ignorant, and should result in termination, I’m more concerned they will be ignored — leaving unaddressed their troubling and hidden meaning. For once I’d prefer the media, and America, speak candidly about race.

To have a discussion around how Parker, and those who agree with him, thinks that a smart, talented, mature, young man who handles himself better at 22 than most do at 42 somehow does not qualify him as black enough in Mr. Parker’s eyes.It is time we discuss how anyone in the African-American community could find the principles Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for — the principles RGIII stands for — as not being, how did Mr. Parker put it, “down with the cause.”


  1. The funny thing is no one notices this or talks about it… It is funny how it happens and works like this but no one says anything… and that the majority in the African American community consider someone that has done well as trying to be white… what is wrong with the world when being poor and down trodden is something that emphasizes their racial identity and if they are willing to work and not be that their racial identity is questioned… Makes no sense…


  1. […] mentioned in the article Are You Down with the Cause, I am a fan of all things football! So it should come as no surprise each year I look forward to […]

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