Giving Limbaugh The Bum’s Rush
Wednesday - October 21, 2009
How does one comment on an issue that is so obviously overblown with self-importance, ridiculous hyperbole and bogus claims of economic bravado without giving credence to those who continue to pump life into the meaningless story?
That’s the dilemma when considering whether or not to jump into the conversation about Rush Limbaugh’s supposed and proposed deal to become part owner of the St. Louis Rams. Sadly, for those who benefit from riling up the masses much in the same way their target does daily on the radio, Limbaugh is now out of the picture as his one-time partner has caved to pressure and dumped his popular but polarizing co-conspirator.
Colts owner Bob Irsay, who famously stole his team out of Baltimore during a cowardly midnight escape, commissioner Roger Goodell, Players Association honcho DeMaurice Smith, the “liberal media” and, of course, Al Sharpton, who never misses an opportunity to attach himself to any story that will keep him in the spotlight, clamored to voice their displeasure at Limbaugh’s possible involvement - even though his role with the team would be minimal.
Even elected officials couldn’t help themselves. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) Houston, took a minute - three in fact, even more than she spent discussing the economy - from her testimony to skewer Limbaugh and encourage the NFL to deny his entrance.
The de facto leader of the Republican Party was to be a minority owner, perhaps one of many. Now that’s not going to happen even though, according to Limbaugh, his former partner, St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts, told the right wing’s point man that his involvement had been cleared by league officials.
NFL franchises are expensive, and even the richest shopper cannot bear the cost alone. That’s where minority owners come in. These unknown investors provide the additional financing that make deals possible. The Steelers, for example, have at least 10 minority owners, who, except for Hall of Famer John Stallworth, are unrecognizable to the general public, their politics completely unknown. The Dolphins have even turned minority ownership into a PR move by inviting Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estafan, Jimmy Buffett and Venus and Serena Williams to purchase a reserved seat in the owners box.
The NFL’s disinterest in Limbaugh has little to do with his politics or past comments, and it has absolutely nothing to do with morality or ethical behavior. The league has proven time and again that bad and even criminal behavior is no reason for permanent dismissal. In the mind of the NFL, Limbaugh is more dangerous that Michael Vick, Jerramy Stevens, Matt Jones or Adam Jones because Limbaugh possesses what the league fears most: an opinion and a forum.
The NFL can’t control Limbaugh and the league must always be in control. It was a lesson the broadcaster learned following his famed and inflated comments about Donovan McNabb, even though he gave ESPN exactly what it wanted: a talented broadcaster who is not afraid to push buttons or be controversial.
So obvious is the need for control that Sharpton wisely, in his letter to the NFL, criticized his opponent not for his history of racial insensitivity but for his criticisms of the league.
Now, let’s make this clear. I am not defending the conservative windbag. Limbaugh, like many of his brethren, has made money off fear, which is reprehensible. Over the years he has been racially and sexually insensitive. But the NFL is not a league of saints, and applying a different standard to a single individual is an awfully slippery slope from which to make a stand. And had Limbaugh decided to fight the NFL, the league would be hard pressed to legally justify denying ownership to a qualified bidder for no better reason than outlandish and outrageous comments.
And don’t for one minute think that the players would not, as suggested, consider St. Louis as a place of employment should Limbaugh be involved. Modern athletes risk too much financially to stick their necks out and will only speak up, or act on the most benign topics.
If there was one saving grace from the entire tale, it is that at least the jokes - and bizarre predictions - were quite amusing. Limbaugh would allow only Fox News to cover the Rams. He would eliminate the salary cap because profit sharing is socialism even though his mid-market team would languish without it. Limbaugh would move to have the union decertified as unions are bad for business and use his immense power to force Minnesota to alter its color scheme because purple is the color of Tinkie Winkie, who is gay and is therefore a threat to traditional marriage.
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