The ugly political practice of race-baiting has now infected the NFL. Last week news broke that conservative radio talk show king Rush Limbaugh was part of a group placing a bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams NFL franchise and in the ensuing days a race firestorm erupted.
Political opponents of Limbaugh and his conservative views immediately launched a malicious campaign to torpedo his chances at owning the team. With self-righteous claims of preventing “hatred” and “discrimination” in their midst, NFL union leaders, incited by notorious race extortionists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, say their opposition is rooted in “racist” comments made by the talk show host six years ago.
In 2003, Limbaugh resigned as a co-host of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown program after observing that the media’s desire to see a black quarterback do well inflated their opinion of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb’s actual performance and contribution to his team. ESPN obviously believed that with his knowledge and love for the game of football, Limbaugh would make an excellent commentator. But when he expressed his opinion about McNabb’s abilities and the media’s coverage of the NFL, Limbaugh was forced to resign.
There’s an important distinction that is missed in the vitriol surrounding the McNabb controversy: Limbaugh’s comments about Donavan McNabb weren’t racial—they were political. Commenting on Affirmative Action and its impact on sports was not racist, it was a political observation. In fact, in light of the NFL’s own policies, Limbaugh’s analysis seems entirely appropriate. It was the NFL that invited racial politics into its league.
The same year that Limbaugh made his McNabb comments, the NFL fined the Detroit Lions for failing to interview minority candidates for their head coaching position, violating the NFL’s diversity rules. The Lions insisted they approached minority candidates, but when it appeared veteran coach Steve Mariucci was being considered, the other candidates dropped out. However, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue admonished the team, “While certain of the difficulties that you encountered in seeking to schedule interviews with minority candidates were beyond your control, you did not take sufficient steps to satisfy the commitment that you had made.”
It now appears racial politics drive many of the decisions made in America’s favorite sport.