NFL Should Punt Rush Limbaugh's Ownership Bid
On Tuesday, it was reported that Limbaugh was part of St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts' group that wants to buy the city's NFL team, the Rams. I can't sit idly by like the Countdown crew did so regrettably.
The NFL indirectly dismissed Limbaugh before. It shouldn't accept him back unless he wants to buy a ticket. After all, this is a man who said:
-- Of President Obama: "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, ruled by dictate."
-- Of Michael J. Fox's struggle with Parkinson's disease: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act... This is really shameless of Michael J Fox."
-- Of a black caller to his radio show: "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back."
-- Of the NAACP: "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."
-- And how could I forget, 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."
It is true that freedom of speech in the country is a protected right. Limbaugh can say whatever he likes and so can you and I. Indeed, he hasn't been taken to court and convicted for any of his repugnant statements and repulsive viewpoints.
But that doesn't mean a potential business partner or employer can't refuse him like a restaurant does of diners who refuse to don shirts and shoes. They can and the NFL should.
If the league accepted whatever bid the group including Limbaugh puts up, it would be a slap in the face to at least two-thirds of its players, and that is selling short the other third. The two-thirds I am referring to are the NFL players who are black. The other third are players of every other hue, including white players who are likely to be far more enlightened and accepting of people of color -- people they've lined up next to and counted on -- than Limbaugh.
I'd hope that if the NFL did make such a foolishly unnecessary move to accept the Limbaugh group that black and white players would do as Limbaugh seems to threaten and turn the clock back to, oh, let's say, 1964, the period when black folks were marching in the streets and standing up to goons to demand our full inclusion in this country. That year, at the AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans, black players threatened a boycott -- and their white teammates joined them -- after many of them were refused service because of their race at several New Orleans hotels and eateries. Buffalo Bills black star Cookie Gilchrist organized the effort and it forced the game to be moved to Houston.
That was the first boycott of an entire city by a professional sports event. Black NFL players would do themselves a disservice not to pick up and walk away from a Limbaugh infested NFL ownership. Imagine how powerful a denouncement of intolerance that would be? This is a league that couldn't find a way to integrate its ownership with a group that included one of its most-beloved superstars, the late Walter Payton. How could it justify making room for Limbaugh?
That is yet another reason it would be public relation's suicide for the NFL to vote Limbaugh into its ranks and, I would hope, commercial suicide for it as well. At the very least it could be suicide for the Rams. What black player would want to toil for someone like Limbaugh if he didn't have to?
I'm hard-pressed to imagine any current owners wanting Limbaugh in their boardroom, either. They make appearances to be an apolitical lot, donating money to both sides of the political line of scrimmage. After all, when they want to build new stadiums they tend to want political support and taxpayers' dollars and that is more difficult to come by when your political bent is well-defined and it is, as Limbaugh would make it, to the extreme.
It is one thing for our pro sports leagues to inherit despicable social louts like one-time Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and current Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Among other affronts, Schott, who took over the Reds from her husband following his death, infamously once called her black players "million dollar n***ers." Sterling bought the Clippers almost 30 years ago, long before court cases revealed him to be a racist landlord.
Baseball eventually removed Schott. I wish basketball would do the same with Sterling.
The NFL can slam its door shut to Limbaugh right now. Anything less would be wholly unwise.
After all, football has become America's pastime and it is embraced even more so now because it has finally come to be the meritocracy it long purported to be. Black general managers finally dot the league. Black coaches have won and lost Super Bowls and been retreaded like their white counterparts. The black quarterback controversy that once enveloped the NFL was over and done with when Limbaugh foolishly tried to reignite it.
The only thing that needs to be torched now is the idea of Limbaugh as an NFL owner. It alone is an incendiary thought.