Roger Goodell and the New McCarthyism

Posted: Oct 14, 2009 12:02 AM

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Tuesday about the possibility of Rush Limbaugh acquiring a piece of the NFL's St. Louis Rams, and responded:

"I've said many times before we're all held to a high standard here, and I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about. I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, absolutely not."

Goodell has not yet held up his hand and proclaimed that he is holding within it a list of conservative pundits who cannot be allowed to continue to attend NFL games, but check in next week. It is classic McCarthyism to use unspecified charges of political wrongdoing to blacklist an individual, and that's what Goodell did yesterday.

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It was also a very divisive statement, so by his own standard, I guess Goodell will be turning in his resignation.

Goodell's decision to throw the NFL into the middle of the left-right debate in the country --and to do so solidly on the side of the left-- must have surprised his owner-employers who last I looked will gladly sell tickets to conservatives. I myself have owned season tickets to the hapless Browns since the franchise returned to Cleveland, and long before that I attended every home game on my dad's nickel from 1965 to 1974. No one talked politics at those games. The NFL was, and until recently had remained, a politics free zone which provided a common ground all football fans regardless of their political ideology.

I covered the subject on my radio program for almost all of my three hours yesterday, and great numbers of long time NFL fans are incensed. They believe Rush has been unfairly slandered by much of the commentary around him, and yesterday's MSNBC appearance by Professor Karen Hunter of Hunter College in New York took Rush-bashing to a new low. Hunter bluntly declared that Rush Limbaugh had endorsed a posthumous Medal of Honor for Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray --a ludicrous defamation that went completely unchallenged by the anchor. What can you say about such reckless and reprehensible hate speech, except that it not be welcomed on any cable network, much less NBC. That so poisonous an environment around Rush exists as to allow such a malicious fabrication to pass unchallenged should have warned Goodell not to credit the feverish assertions of the anti-Rush mob.

The Hunter fantasy was preceded the night before by a Chris Matthews fantasy about watching Rush be blown up, ala a villain in a Bond movie. Nice work on that front as well, but that's just MSNBC. The network is not selling to the entire spectrum of America, but to its fringe left. The NFL on the other hand needs center-right conservatives to buy tickets, jerseys, and NFL television packages.

What percentage of Dallas Cowboy fans do you think are conservative? 60% 75? 90%.

Do you think owner Jerry Jones is happy with the Commish? How about every other NFL owner who ever hopes to get a public subsidy for the new stadium approved by voters down the road? Roger Goodell is entitled to be a fan of every hard left politician in America, and I wouldn't care if he did a good job as commissioner, but his lurch into the role of thought police was a terrible error, especially as it was completely divorced from any detailed statement of fact.

Now the NFL is in the swamp, and it will have to find its way out. You don't have to be a listener to Rush to see the hatchet job being done to him, to resent it, and to wonder what the next manifestation will be of the new McCarthyism. Indeed, fans of free speech generally should be as outraged as conservatives. I expect the children of Hollywood's long-ago blacklist victims to sign a petition and demand that the Commissioner renounce this sort of character assassination and workplace exclusion.

If Rush and his partners have the best bid for the most money, they should become the owners of the Rams --it is that simple.

But if he is blocked, I hope Rush sponsors a NASCAR car and the NFL owners watch it quickly become the most popular car every Sunday.