Rush Limbaugh wants Black folks to tune in to his radio show sometimes, so they can see he’s not really the racist some say he is.
The popular conservative radio show host, who’s trying to buy the St. Louis Rams, says that some African-American players are trying to kick up some dust to “affect the outcome” of the NFL’s decision over whether to deem him a worthy owner.
“One of the things that is going around out there is that Black NFL players will boycott playing the game if I’m an owner in the league, which of course if patently absurd. But this is being reported, and it’s designed to affect the outcome of all this,” Limbaugh told his listeners. “…The disappointing thing is that people who could just turn on the radio and listen to this program and find out what they want to know somehow can’t do that.”
Limbaugh, whose radio contract alone is worth an estimated $400 million, has hooked up with Dave Checketts, owner of the St. Louis Blues hockey team, to submit a bid on the franchise. The Rams has an estimated worth of about $900 billion but is expected to go for about $700 million, according to published reports.
But Limbaugh’s growing legion of foes could keep a deal from going through. Among his critics is the league commissioner himself, who described Limbaugh’s well-documented remarks as “polarizing” and “divisive.”
"The views of a lot of people, most importantly our players – and I've talked to players so I understand the issue with players – the comments that Rush made, specifically about Donovan [McNabb], I disagree with very strongly," Goodell said, referring to Limbaugh’s 2003 statement that McNabb was overrated because the media was looking to praise a Black quarterback. "Those are polarizing comments that we don't think reflect accurately on the NFL or our players. I obviously do not believe those comments are positive. They're divisive, and that's a negative thing for us. But I disagree with those comments very strongly and I told the players that."
Colts owner Jim Irsay also spoke out against Limbaugh joining the fraternity of owners. "I, myself, couldn't even consider voting for him," Irsay said at an owners meeting. "When there are comments that have been made that are inappropriate, incendiary and insensitive ... our words do damage, and it's something that we don't need."
But perhaps the most surprising reaction to a potential Limbaugh deal is that of the usually reticent players. With the exception of an occasional blast from outspoken NFL Hall of Famers Jim Brown or Kellen Winslow Sr., generally there is barely a whisper of discontent regarding racial issues affecting players.
Not so this time around.
McNabb and other players have said that they will steer clear of St. Louis if Limbaugh winds up at the helm.
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, made it clear this week that he would be appalled if the league allowed Limbaugh to become an owner.
“Sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives us all a reason to cheer and when it transcends,” Smith said. “Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred. I’ve asked our players to embrace their roles, not only in the game of football but also as players and partners in the business of the NFL. There is an ugly part of history, and we will not risk going backwards, giving up, giving in or lying down to it.”
Added Goodell: "I have said many times before that we are all held to a higher standard here. I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about. I would not want to see those kind of comments from people who are in a responsible position within the NFL. No. Absolutely not."