Rush Limbaugh wants to buy into the NFL? This is a joke, right? The guy who once said that the league “all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons” actually wants to own one of those gangs?
Too bad for Limbaugh that some see the whimsy in his bid to join an investor group seeking to buy a controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams. Limbaugh might be able to dismiss Rev. Al Sharpton, who expressed his opposition to the bid in an e-mail to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday, as a firebrand taking shots at him from the other extreme of other political spectrum. However, Sharpton has allies.
For example, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, wrote in an e-mail to the union’s executive committee: “Sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends. Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred.”
New York Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka told The New York Daily News, “I am not going to draw a conclusion [about Limbaugh] off of one comment, but when it is time after time after time and there’s a consistent pattern of disrespect and just a complete misunderstanding of an entire culture that I am a part of, I can’t respect him as a man.” Meanwhile, Bart Scott of the New York Jets, more pithily, told the Daily News, “I know I wouldn’t want to play for him. He’s a jerk. He’s an —-.”
In case you’ve forgotten, it was Limbaugh, on his daily radio talk show, who once told a black caller, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” Limbaugh also said that the NAACP should “have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.” And during his brief and undistinguished tenure as an ESPN analyst, Limbaugh said that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who happens to be black, was being overrated by a politically correct media that was “very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”
McNabb said that he would congratulate Limbaugh if his group bought the Rams and quickly added, “But I won’t be in St. Louis anytime soon.”
To be sure, Limbaugh’s daily pronouncements from Mount Rushbo resonate with someone, otherwise he wouldn’t being sitting atop the ratings mountain in a number of major American cities. And it’s not by accident that Limbaugh, who once sold tickets for baseball’s Kansas City Royals, picked football as his access point into sports ownership, as his conservative views are quite in line with those around the gridiron game.
Indeed, in the past 20 years, players coaches and officials of 22 of 32 NFL teams have given greater political contributions to Republicans than Democrats. Oddly enough, the team that donated the most to Democrats was the Rams, dating back to their days in Los Angeles. And, in another delicious piece of irony, another member of Limbaugh’s potential investor group is George Soros, a billionaire financier who has donated heavily to liberal causes, including MoveOn.Org, as Bloomberg reported this week.
One of America’s greatest selling points is our willingness to allow anyone to say any darned thing they want without fear of being arrested, thanks to a little thing called the First Amendment to the Constitution. And few people have said more repugnant and loutish things, all of them blissfully covered under the Freedom of Speech clause, than Limbaugh. But the Constitution doesn’t guarantee that those who say insensitive things can’t get called on them or potentially be shunned because of them.
If Limbaugh becomes a part owner, the Rams will discover that free speech isn’t entirely free, particularly when they try to sign an African-American free agent.