NFL owners look at Rush and see next Marge Schott

BY foxsports • October 14, 2009

It's hard to imagine a room full of rich, mostly middle-aged white Republicans turning thumbs down on one of their own. But wherever their real sympathies lie, NFL owners still value business more than principle. And when they looked at Rush Limbaugh, apparently what they envisioned was another Marge Schott - somebody who was going to cause them more trouble than he's worth. So barely a week after the talk-radio king announced he was partnering with St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts in a bid to buy the league's St. Louis Rams, it fell to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to not-so-subtly inform Limbaugh that he was wasting his time. "I have said many times before that we are all held to a higher standard here," Goodell said Tuesday at an owners meeting in Boston. "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." The commissioner also said the Rams' current owners updated the league about the potential sale, but specific groups weren't discussed. Whoever wins the bidding, though, would still need approval from 24 of the league's 32 teams, and Colts owner Jim Irsay became the first to say publicly what more than a few of his lodge brothers were thinking: There was no point asking for his vote. "I, myself, couldn't even consider voting for him," Irsay said at the same 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." Limbaugh complained in an e-mail response to The Associated Press that the media was using "totally made-up and fabricated quotes" to discredit his bid, which is a tactic he knows something about. "It is regrettable that something I have dreamed about for years has taken this course. But the fight is worth it to me," he wrote. "I love the National Football League." This isn't the first time, of course, the league has failed to return the affection. ESPN hired Limbaugh in 2003 to add some spark to the network's "NFL Sunday Countdown." But when he kicked up a firestorm with his uninformed opinion that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," the NFL couldn't distance itself fast enough. "ESPN knew what it was getting when they hired Rush Limbaugh," league vice president Joe Browne said at the time. "ESPN selects its on-air talent, not the NFL." But the NFL selects its owners, and the people in charge know exactly what they would be in for if Limbaugh were allowed, even as a minority partner, to join the club. NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, who is black, has urged players to speak out against Limbaugh's bid. Several have already done just that, and bad as the Rams are at the moment - they've lost 15 straight heading into Jacksonville this weekend - in a league where nearly two-thirds of the players are black, the team could wind up even worse. Ultimately, that's why Limbaugh doesn't have a chance. Back in the day, Art Modell, who owned the Cleveland Browns, assessed the league's revenue sharing plan that enabled small-market teams like Green Bay to compete with the big boys and joked, "We're 26 Republicans who vote Socialist!" When everybody is making money, the last thing they're apt to do is bring somebody on board who's going to make the mission harder. Since Limbaugh mocked Chicago's bid committee when it got knocked out in the first round of balloting for the 2016 Olympics, what does it say that his own attempt to buy into the NFL's boys club likely won't even come to a vote? Only this: He didn't bother to do his homework, as the McNabb episode and his forced resignation from ESPN suggested; or else, he's not above pulling a cheap publicity stunt to get his name back in the headlines for a few days. In a recent interview with NBC, Limbaugh was asked how much of what he said was strictly for entertainment purposes and how much of it he actually believed. Toward the end of a rambling answer, Limbaugh said, "Everybody that listens agrees with me." Or maybe not. --- Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org



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