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Why Does America Leave It to NFL Owners to Tell Rush Limbaugh Where to Go?

Shock jock Limbaugh was thinking about buying a piece of the St. Louis Rams and was promptly told that he and his divisive comments are not welcome in the NFL.
 
 
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Why was it left to the National Freakin' Football League -- hardly a bastion of liberal thought -- to call out bombastic shock jock Rush Limbaugh for his puerile racism and incessant bigotry? And why do NFL owners hold themselves to a higher standard than the rest of us ?

Limbaugh made headlines again this week - an annoyingly regular occurrence -- when it was reported that he was part of a group attempting to buy a piece of his hometown football team, the St. Louis Rams. As is usual with All Things Rush, controversy erupted immediately.

This should have come as a surprise to no one, since the Rams play in a league where two-thirds of the players are black. Current and retired players, several owners, the head of the players union and of course professional gadflies like the omnipresent Reverend Sharpton all made it immediately and abundantly clear that Limbaugh's bid would be met with fierce opposition.

Soon National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly called out Limbaugh for making -- here's another surprise! -- "divisive comments," and it became obvious that El Rushbo was a dead man talking -at least as far as the NFL bid was concerned.

As Goodell told the New York Times, NFL owners are "held to a high standard," and "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the N.F.L. -- absolutely not."

Although he may actually have taken a principled stand, it's more likely that Goodell was simply recognizing reality. A successful ownership bid by Limbaugh & Co. was never really in the cards. For one thing, despite Rush's recent $400 million dollar contract extension, there might not have been enough money on the table to ensure a successful bid. But the real reason is that NFL owners were rightly worried that letting Limbaugh join their exclusive club would be akin to asking for a stink bomb to explode in their clubhouse.

After all, The Grand Poobah's previous NFL foray was a public relations fiasco. While he was employed by ESPN as a commentator, Limbaugh announced on air that Eagles star Donovan McNabb was consistently overrated by a news media anxious to see a black quarterback succeed. "They are polarizing comments that we don't think reflect accurately on the N.F.L. or our players," Goodell said. "I obviously do not believe that those comments are positive and they are divisive. That's a negative thing for us."

Given the overwhelming likelihood that Limbaugh would fail to pass muster as an NFL owner - something he surely anticipated -- the uninitiated might well wonder why he even entered into the futile exercise in the first place Well, wonder no more It's long been apparent that Limbaugh likes nothing more than to drive the mainstream media agenda -- something he is quite adept at. As he told NBC's Jamie Gangel on the Today show, "I know how to yank their chain. I know how to send them into insanity. I know how to make them spend the next two days talking about me."

Limbaugh said he anticipated the media frenzy over his bid to buy the Rams. "They're just gonna go nuts," he said. "This is the kind of stuff they've been trying to make sure doesn't happen with me. All this stuff is the mainstreaming of Rush Limbaugh from off this far-right fringe they've tried to put me. I just keep tiptoeing into the mainstream. And it just irritates them."

Most of my critics don't even listen to me; they are clueless," Limbaugh continued. "They just go to Web sites that report what I say out of context. I'm amazed at the Democrats and the media who do not know what's going on in my world. I know what's going on in theirs. I study 'em. I watch 'em every day."

Here's one member of the media who has studied and listened to Limbaugh for years- in fact I wrote an entire book about him and his fellow hate talkers, detailing the evil things they say for profit. Consider, for example, this instant replay of Limbaugh's most vicious racist hits over the years, as compiled recently by Nation sports editor Dave Zirin:

"How can the NFL in good conscience embrace an owner who once said, 'The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.'

That's not all. Regarding the NAACP, Limbaugh said:

'The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.'

Recently, on life in 'Obama's America':

'The white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'

And finally, in a league made up of predominately African-American athletes, how can you have an owner who says, '[Black people] are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?'"

Despite Limbaugh's belief that -- as he whined to NBC's Gangel -- "There's a cliche about conservatives: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobic. Now, you announce you're a conservative, you're automatically all those things to the critics," it's clear that you can still be a conservative -- and even an NFL owner -- without being labeled "racist, sexist, bigot, homophobic." It's simple, really; just don't act like one. And as Zirin also pointed out, "This has nothing to do with Limbaugh's conservative politics. Most NFL owners are to the right of Dick Cheney. Over twenty years, officials on twenty-three of the thirty-two NFL clubs have donated more money to Republicans than Democrats."

It was never about right and left -- and maybe was about right and wrong. Congratulations are due to the Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL for doing the right thing -- even if it may have been for the wrong reasons. The only remaining mystery is what David Checketts -- the former Madison Square Garden executive who is leading the group hoping to purchase the Rams -- was smoking when he asked Limbaugh to join him in the first place.

Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor is the author of " Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio " (AlterNet Books, 2008). O'Connor also writes the Media Is A Plural blog.

 
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