The Effect of Right Wing Policy in U.S. Sports Part II: Limbaugh vs the NFL

Farooq Ahmed@@farooq09Correspondent IMarch 17, 2010

Rush Limbaugh is an American right wing radio talk show host. Limbaugh, who has emerged as a leader of the conservative opposition to Obama and the Democrats, said that he had joined a group of investors seeking an ownership stake in the St Louis Rams of the National Football League. There, however ,was an adverse reaction to this from various numbers people involved within the NFL and also outside of the League.

Limbaugh is known for his very controversial background in the media and biased views towards the American Republican Party; however ,he frequently accuses the American mainstream media of having a strong liberal bias adding that those views are extremist propaganda.

His various incidents have provoked a large dislike for him and his radio show from many corners of the United States. Here are some of the many examples of Rush Limbaugh’s controversial quotes in the media.

In 2003, Limbaugh commented on NFL Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has been to three straight Pro Bowls and two consecutive NFC championship games; he was runner-up for NFL MVP in his first full season as a starter.

"Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well, black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defence carried this team."

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Limbaugh was soon after asked to retire by the ESPN network for his race-related comments against McNabb.

He described the vicious nature of the Ravens’ defense referring to them as “the Crips and the Bloods." He also said, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons."

Limbaugh even has repeatedly played a song on his radio show "Barack the Magic Negro."

Rush Limbaugh has been the No. 1 topic of conversation in the sports media recently in the USA, as his bid to become a part owner of the St. Louis Rams NFL franchise was greatly criticised and sabotaged, in part, by commentators and NFL players suggesting that Limbaugh is a racist who has no business being a part of the NFL.

But was Limbaugh treated unfairly by the sports media?

Limbaugh was to be a limited partner in a bid led by St. Louis Blues Ice Hockey chairman Dave Checketts, but Checketts said in a statement that “Limbaugh's participation had complicated the effort. The group will move forward without him.”

Limbaugh said on his radio show earlier that day that he had been inundated with e-mails from listeners who supported him in the bid.

"This is not about the NFL, it's not about the St. Louis Rams, it's not about me," Limbaugh said. "This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative.

"Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we're going to have."

Reverend Al Sharpton was one of those who were highly opposed to Limbaugh having ownership of an NFL franchise.

Sharpton is a fiery speaker and activist from New York City who became famous in the 1980s for his protests against police brutality and racial injustice. In the 1970s and '80s he worked with boxing promoter Don King before becoming well-known to New Yorkers as a guy who always seemed to be in the middle of hot-button racial issues.

His reputation took a blow in 1987 when he was the spokesman for Tawana Bradley, an African-American teenager who accused a group of white men of rape—a charge a grand jury deemed a hoax.

On Jan. 12, 1991 Sharpton was stabbed in the chest minutes before he was to lead a protest march through a predominantly white Brooklyn neighbourhood where a black teenager was slain by a mob of white youths two years earlier. He has since been highly active in fighting for equal rights for black people.

He also gave a speech at Michael Jackson’s memorial earlier in 2009.

Sharpton received a standing ovation for a rousing eulogy, which included telling Jackson's children from the stage, “There wasn't nothing strange about your Daddy. It was strange what your Daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway."

Sharpton went on to say about Limbaugh’s attempts that “It is a moral victory for all Americans—especially the players that have been unfairly castigated by Rush Limbaugh," Sharpton said in a statement. "This decision will also uphold the unifying standards of major sports."

Sharpton added in a telephone interview that major sports leagues shouldn't welcome owners who are "divisive and incendiary."

"Every major pro sports franchise has dealings with its community," he said. "It's unfair for taxpayers to be underwriting people who denigrate them," he said.

Checketts said Limbaugh would have not had any say in the direction of the franchise "or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations."

Before getting dropped, Limbaugh said he had no intention of backing out.

The NFL indirectly dismissed Limbaugh before with Commissioner Roger Goodell at an NFL players association meeting saying that he did not think that it would be acceptable for the NFL to have an owner with political background of Rush Limbaugh.

"I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here," Goodell told reporters, via the New York Times.

"I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL – absolutely not."

"The comments Rush made specifically about Donovan McNabb, I disagree with very strongly," Goodell said.

"It's a polarizing comment that we don't think reflect accurately on the NFL or our players. I obviously do not believe those comments are positive and they are divisive. That's a negative thing for us, obviously." And with Limbaugh’s previous history of offensive comments It seemed as if Goodell had decided that enough was enough and that Limbaugh would never be allowed to be associated with the NFL in terms of business.

Here are examples of other notoriously distasteful comments made by Limbaugh over the past.

Of President Obama, he stated that, "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, ruled by dictate." And “We need segregated buses…This is Obama’s America.”

§  Of Michael J. Fox's struggle with Parkinson's disease:  "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease," Limbaugh told listeners. “He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."

§  Of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People): "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."

§  Of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal: "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time."

§  Of the NFL: "Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons."

§  “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.

§  “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honour? James Earl Ray [The confessed assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

§  “Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.”

To put into context, Rush Limbaugh owning an NFL franchise, or any major league sports franchise in America (Basketball, Baseball, Ice Hockey, and Soccer) would be the equivalent of British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin becoming the chairman of Arsenal FC. It shouldn’t and probably will never happen.

Looking in further detail into which types of owners the NFL has, it is clear to see that the NFL owners and league in general is more in favour of Sen. John McCain’s Republican party rather than the current Democrat party headed by President Barack Obama.

In the San Diego Chargers' case, team owner Alex Spanos ranks as professional football's most prolific political bankroller. He alone has contributed more than $2 million to political candidates and committees during the past two decades, almost all Republican. Members of his family, several of whom occupy top front office posts in the Chargers organization, have likewise collectively contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to various candidates and committees.

Houston Texans owner Robert McNair, meanwhile, has donated more than $543,000 to political candidates and committees since 1989. Other six-figure political contributors include San Diego Chargers President Dean Spanos, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, New York Jets owner Robert W. Johnson IV and former New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.

While Defending Superbowl Champions Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has individually only contributed a fraction of these amounts to political interests, his family has collectively donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates and committees, primarily Democratic.

The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities. The rule is named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the league's diversity committee, and indirectly the Rooney family in general due to the team's long history of giving African Americans opportunities that most NFL teams at one point didn't give. It is often cited as an example of affirmative action.

The Rule was established to help qualified minority coaches get jobs that they otherwise wouldn't have got. Until 1979, Fritz Pollard was the only minority head coach in NFL history (which was during the league's early years in the 1920's) and by the time the Rule was implemented, only six African American candidates had ever held head coaching jobs.

President Barack Obama earlier this year named Dan Rooney ambassador to Ireland. Tom Rooney, Dan Rooney's son, is also a freshman Republican congressman representing Florida's 16th District.

However there has been discussion about the effectiveness and relevance of the Rooney Rule. The rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a head coach or general manager, was adopted in 2003 with the hope of seeing more African-Americans hired as head coaches. Until six years ago, there had only been five in the league's modern history. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue was hopeful that by expanding the search, owners would come across qualified minority candidates who might have been overlooked otherwise.

Yet Washington hired Bruce Allen within 48 hours of firing GM Vinny Cerrato. It also named Mike Shanahan, , head coach within two days of Jim Zorn's ouster. The Seahawks were only slightly less disingenuous; they waited three days before hiring Pete Carroll to replace the fired Jim Mora, which led to some scepticism over whether they followed the rule by the book. The NFL later determined that the teams in question had followed the laws regarding the rule and would not be investigated or punished.

While not at nearly the levels of team owners and executives, NFL players and coaches have also made tens of thousands of dollars worth of political contributions in recent years.

During the 2008 election cycle, Obama received a number of contributions from players and coaches, including Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez ($4,600), Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith ($2,300), Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams ($2,300) and Indianapolis Colts defensive end Raheem Brock ($2,300). Rich Eisen isn't a player, he's an NFL Network broadcaster, but he, too, donated $1,500 to Obama and the Democrats.

Republicans haven't been completely sidelined, however. San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner gave $2,300 to GOP presidential nominee John McCain, while Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid contributed $2,300 to Republican presidential also-ran Mitt Romney. Other Romney bankrollers include Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap ($2,300) and Buffalo Bills defensive end Ryan Denney ($2,300).

The Indianapolis Colts' all-star and future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning in 2007 cut a $2,300 cheque – as did his wife, Ashley -- to Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. Fred Thompson. Manning also contributed $2,000 to President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

More recently, semi-retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks contributed $4,800 to Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who's running for U.S. Senate in Florida. Buccaneers' quarterback Byron Leftwich also gave $1,000 to Crist. Both players are well recognised black African American athletes and have been somewhat criticized for their donations towards the party.

There have been several debates over the comments and actions of Rush Limbaugh in the media; CNN was one of those independent news networks that covered the story from both sides of the argument. Here are some of the debates that CNN reporters had with influential people who had opinions on what Limbaugh was undertaking.

To sum up, Rush Limbaugh is hardly a saint, but then again he is entitled to his own opinions and the freedom of speech which he obviously has comprehensively channelled through his radio show which is broadcast to around 10million listeners in the USA alone. Limbaugh probably deserves the criticism that he gets, but is it right to stop him from owning what is essentially his own business? The St. Louis Rams is certainly more than a business to many people in the area and greater Missouri, but like all businesses, they hire employees, and also release employees of their duties. The Rams are a struggling team in need of dire help, can Rush Limbaugh provide it? Why not? He has a reported $285 million in the bank with a further $400million to come in the 4 years. The Rams organization is valued at around $800million after a series of poor seasons in which they have struggled to win more than 5 games in each season. With the partnership with Dave Checketts that would put them in a comfortable position to take ownership. So they have the finances, and Dave Checketts is already owner of the MLS franchise Real Salt Lake and also owner of NHL franchise the St. Louis Blues. Checketts has a reported net worth of $1.8billion.

With all that said, here is why Limbaugh has rightly been denied access to ownership of an NFL franchise. His previous history with the NFL is patchy at best. When he worked for ESPN and made comments about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb he was live on air while the telecast was broadcasted to millions across the United States and around the world. His comments towards McNabb as NFL commissioner stated were polarizing and divisive to a top NFL player and perennial all star who has proven to be one of the best players of his era regardless of colour. McNabb has been constantly ridiculed by fans of the Eagles over his career and was booed when first drafted for Eagles back in 1999most of whom were pushing for their team to draft University of Texas running back Ricky Williams. McNabb was the second of five quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks of a quarterback-rich class. However, only McNabb and Daunte Culpepper would go on to have successful careers in the NFL (Tim Couch who was picked no.1 ahead of McNabb struggled with the Cleveland Browns and officially retired in 2007 while Akili Smith and Cade McNown were out of the NFL by 2002.) By 2006 only McNabb was still with the team that originally drafted him. He is the Eagles' all-time leader in career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns which puts him amongst the greats of all time, and to criticize a player of that stature because he is black and that the media want a black player to succeed at that position is simply unfair and idiotic.

His other comments towards people such as Barack Obama and Michael J Fox were also distasteful at best; however his comments on the slave trade were highly distasteful and immature as were his comments towards the killer of Martin Luther King stating that he deserved a Medal of Honour for his actions.

 The thing with Limbaugh is that he is clearly a racist, but then constantly denies that he is such, this suggests that he honestly does not believe his comments are hurting anyone, this is somewhat strange, but it seems as he has no idea that his comments are offensive to black people, but with that said it would not surprise me that he is just that ignorant; and it is those comments that put Limbaugh over the edge with the NFL, its players, fans and most importantly its commissioner, Roger Goodell.

It is quite understandable that NFL players, 62 percent of whom are African American, object to Limbaugh having even a 1 percent ownership of any team.

No one denies Limbaugh the right, to utter such crap on his radio programs. But the American Constitution does not give him the right to own a football, baseball, hockey, basketball or soccer team if the owners of other such teams think he is a detriment to their sport as the NFL owners apparently do. But there is no need for a loud expression of racism to spew over the nation's airwaves from the thoughtless and damaging verbiage of an NFL owner who may hire as many as 50 or more African American athletes and a like number of office workers.


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