Why is it left to the National Freakin' Football League - hardly a bastion of liberal thought - to call out bombastic shock jock Rush Limbaugh for his puerile racism and incessant bigotry? And why are NFL owners holding themselves to a higher standard than...the rest of us?
Limbaugh made news recently when it was reported that he was attempting to buy a piece of his hometown football team, the St. Louis Rams - and as is usual with All Things Rush, controversy erupted immediately.
Kudos to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for stating forthrightly that "divisive comments" - which, let's face it, are what El Rushbo is all about - "are not what the N.F.L. is all about." As Goodell told the New York Times, NFL owners are "held to a high standard," and "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the N.F.L. -- absolutely not."
Although Goodell emphasized that it was "extremely early in the process," his remarks were a clear signal that - at least when it comes to NFL ownership - Limbaugh is unofficially but definitely a Dead Man Talking. Although he may actually have taken a principled stand, it's more likely that Goodell was simply recognizing reality, since he runs a league in which two-thirds of the players are black -- and current and retired players, several owners, the head of the players union and professional gadflies like the omnipresent Al Sharpton alike have all made it abundantly clear that Limbaugh's bid would be met with fierce opposition.
As The Nation's sports editor Dave Zirin noted recently:
New York Giant Mathias Kiwanuka said in the New York Daily News, 'I don't want anything to do with a team that he has any part of. He can do whatever he wants; it is a free country. But if it goes through, I can tell you where I am not going to play.'
[Eagles quarterback Donovan] McNabb said in his weekly press conference, 'If he's rewarded to buy them, congratulations to him. But I won't be in St. Louis anytime soon.'
New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott said, 'I can only imagine how his players would feel.... He could offer me whatever he wanted; I wouldn't play for him.'
Retired player Roman Oben said, 'Character is a constant point of emphasis for NFL and team officials when it comes to the players; potential owners should be held to the same level of scrutiny and accountability.'
Zirin also compiled a quick list of Limbaugh's most vicious racist hits over the years:
How can the NFL in good conscience embrace an owner who once said, 'The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.'
That's not all. Regarding the NAACP, Limbaugh said:
'The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.'
Recently, on life in 'Obama's America':
'The white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'
And finally, in a league made up of predominately African-American athletes, how can you have an owner who says, '[Black people] are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?'
A successful ownership bid by Limbaugh was highly unlikely anyway -- so NFL Commissioner Goodell's comments were relatively safe. For one thing, despite Rush's recent $400 million dollar contract extension, there might not have been enough money on the table to ensure a successful bid. But the real reason is that NFL owners were rightly worried that letting Limbaugh join their exclusive club would be akin to asking for a stink bomb to explode in their clubhouse.
After all, The Grand Poobah's previous NFL foray was a public relations fiasco. While he was employed by ESPN as a commentator, Limbaugh announced on air that Eagles star Donovan McNabb was consistently overrated by a news media anxious to see a black quarterback succeed. "They are polarizing comments that we don't think reflect accurately on the N.F.L. or our players," Goodell said. "I obviously do not believe that those comments are positive and they are divisive. That's a negative thing for us. I disagree with those comments very strongly and I have told the players that."
Given the likelihood that Limbaugh will fail to pass muster as an NFL owner - something he surely anticipated - one might well wonder why he even entered into the exercise in the first place.
Well, wonder no more... It's long been apparent that Limbaugh likes nothing more than to drive the mainstream media agenda - something he is quite adept at. As he told NBC's Jamie Gangel on the Today show, "I know how to yank their chain. I know how to send them into insanity. I know how to make them spend the next two days talking about me." Limbaugh told Gangel he anticipated the media frenzy over his bid to buy the Rams. "They're just gonna go nuts," he said. "This is the kind of stuff they've been trying to make sure doesn't happen with me. All this stuff is the mainstreaming of Rush Limbaugh from off this far-right fringe they've tried to put me. I just keep tiptoeing into the mainstream. And it just irritates them."
"Most of my critics don't even listen to me; they are clueless," Limbaugh continued. "They just go to Web sites that report what I say out of context. I'm amazed at the Democrats and the media who do not know what's going on in my world. I know what's going on in theirs. I study 'em. I watch 'em every day."
Here's one member of the media who has listened to Limbaugh - in fact I wrote an entire book about him and his fellow hate talkers, detailing the evil things they say for profit.
Despite Limbaugh's belief that -- as he whined to NBC's Gangel -- "There's a cliché about conservatives: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobic. Now, you announce you're a conservative, you're automatically all those things to the critics," it's clear that you can still be a conservative and even an NFL owner without being labeled "racist, sexist, bigot, homophobic." As Dave Zirin rightly pointed out, "This has nothing to do with Limbaugh's conservative politics. Most NFL owners are to the right of Dick Cheney. Over twenty years, officials on twenty-three of the thirty-two NFL clubs have donated more money to Republicans than Democrats."
It's not about right and left--just right and wrong. Congratulations to the Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL for doing the right thing.