Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from the group bidding on the St. Louis Rams for being a “divisive figure”. To hear all about it, tune in to NBC’s Sunday Night Football with Keith Olbermann!
I know I promised I wouldn’t talk politics here in my sports blog, but when the two worlds collide like this it’s my time to shine. Just so we’re clear, I’ll begin by admitting that I am a fan of Rush Limbaugh and that I have listened to his show almost every day for the last ten years. I don’t believe him to be a racist, nor do I think that he would have had any ill effect on the NFL or the St. Louis Rams (who have sort of become the Orioles of football in the last couple years).
Before we dive in, let’s lay out a few facts. Rush, a Missouri native, was only to be a minor partner in the investment group, and would have had no say in the operations and business decisions of the team. He does know sports though, beginning his broadcasting career with the Kansas City Royals and later his short stint on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown. It was there in 2003 that he made the notorious Donovan McNabb comment about the NFL’s desire to see black quarterbacks and black coaches to succeed, which ultimately led to his resignation from the show.
While I will agree that that was certainly not the most tactful thing Rush has ever said, I don’t believe it was born of racism. Remember the Rooney Rule? In case you forgot, it was officially adopted before the 2003 season. And only a couple of months prior to the McNabb comments, the Detroit Lions had been fined $200,000 by the league for failing to comply with the new Rule when they fired head coach Marty Mornhinweg and ultimately hired Steve Mariucci without interviewing a black candidate. In context, it appears to me that Rush was merely commenting on the league’s new policy and the stringent enforcements behind it.
But even if you do find Rush’s comments from 2003 to be racist or offensive, I would have to then ask why he is not entitled to the same compassion and second chance that the NFL is usually so willing to give. Over the years, many players and coaches have gone off the rails in one way or another, but ultimately most of them were admonished, forgiven, and then returned to the game better men. Obviously, the most recent one is Michael Vick. Last year it was Pacman Jones. Two years ago, it was Bill Belichick. And if you go back to 2000, it was Ray Lewis.
I am also struck by the characters who led the charge against Rush’s venture into NFL ownership. The most vocal opposition came from professional troublemakers Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who have done more in their lives to divide the races than Rush could ever do. The last time they ventured into the sports world was during the Duke Lacrosse case, where they threw allegations of racism at just about everyone involved until the accuser admitted she was lying and they quietly retreated with egg on their faces. The first team owner to publically state that he would vote against Rush was Colts owner Jim Irsay, who, to Baltimore fans, belongs on the same pedestal as Peter Angelos. And given the fact that Steelers owner Dan Rooney went so far as to credit President Obama with their Superbowl win last year, I’d bet the farm that he wouldn’t support Rush either. But, much like some recent federal judicial nominees, Rush never made it to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.
Here’s my bottom line- we have a final arbiter here, and that is the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment guarantees you, me, Rush Limbaugh, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jim Irsay, and Dan Rooney the right to free speech. It does not, however, grant anyone the right not to be offended. If you don’t like what Rush Limbaugh says (after you’ve actually heard it for yourself), turn off your radio; and if he owns a little piece of the St. Louis Rams, don’t buy a ticket. But it is very unbecoming and un-American to accept everything you read about him on Wikipedia as fact and accuse him of racism, or to whine about him being divisive and offensive in an attempt to stop him from spending his own money as he sees fit.
Hey Rush, could we maybe interest you in the Orioles? I think there are plenty of die-hard Democrats in Baltimore who would welcome you with open arms just to be rid of the ownership we have now…