Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hell Must Be Freezing Over ...

... Because I'm about to do something I never thought I'd be doing in the space of this blog.

I'm going to defend Rush Limbaugh.

Well, more specifically, I'm going to defend his right to bid as part of a group interesting in buying the NFL's St. Louis Rams. Limbaugh, a Missouri native, has expressed interest in having an ownership stake in the team, a development that has drawn the ire of several NFL players, the league's players' union and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Which, let's face it ... what's a good race debate without either Sharpton or Jesse Jackson?

Some players, including Mathias Kiwanuka of the New York Giants and Bart Scott of the New York Jets, have come out and said they would never play for Limbaugh if he came into the league as an owner. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said the same thing, though in his case I believe him, since McNabb was a target of Limbaugh's during the conservative radio host's controversial and highly laughable brief tenure as an NFL analyst at ESPN in 2003.

Let's face it ... if an NFL player is offered millions of dollars to play in St. Louis, he'll have to at least consider it -- even if Limbaugh is the one signing the check. NFL players are, for better or worse, mercenaries -- they go where the money is, as well they should. Contracts in the NFL aren't guaranteed, and the average NFL career only lasts three and a half years.

Is a player really going to turn down millions of dollars because they don't want to play for Limbaugh?

Besides, how can players take a stand against Limbaugh and yet forgive the countless players in the league who keep getting in trouble with the law? How can players defend guys like Pacman Jones and Michael Vick, who have repeatedly broken the law and endangered others, but turn their back on a guy who's nothing more than an insensitive, conservative blowhard? Sure, Limbaugh can be offensive, but he's really nothing more than a harmless radio host.

Limbaugh's assertion that McNabb was successful only because the NFL wanted a successful NFL quarterback was offensive, as was his assertion that in President Obama's America, black kids beat up white kids with other black kids cheering. Limbaugh's desire for the President to fail is offensive, as is his comparing football to a battle between the Bloods and the Crips without the weapons.

But is it really grounds to keep him from owning a portion of the Rams?

I would guess most NFL owners are pretty conservative, and some might even share Limbaugh's controversial views. They just don't have a public outlet to express those views. Besides, Limbaugh would be a minority owner (oh, the irony), no different than Jimmy Buffett or Serena Williams with the Miami Dolphins. Yeah, they own part of the team and they make money on it, but the Dolphins aren't exactly going to Buffett for personnel advice.

The big story here is Limbaugh, who has a history of racial intolerance (anyone else remember Barack the Magic Negro?), looking to break into a league that is 70 percent African-American. If the bulk of the NFL was white, we probably wouldn't be in the middle of this admittedly-absurd firestorm.

Limbaugh is, to some degree, an act. I don't doubt he believes his bloviations, and I don't doubt he genuinely has a distaste for anything liberal or of color. But I don't believe for a second that players would honestly boycott him and leave millions of dollars on the table. Limbaugh's politics would have no bearing on his owning an NFL franchise; he's in this to make money. This is just a business proposition for him.

If nothing else, Limbaugh's a businessman. There's a reason he makes millions of dollars a year. But if he was really as powerful and influential as we sometimes make him out to be, President Clinton wouldn't have served two terms and President Obama wouldn't have won the election.

Now, mark this down ... because this is the only time I will ever defend Rush Limbaugh.

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