Sports media gang-tackle Limbaugh's bid to buy St. Louis Rams

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On October 6, Rush Limbaugh released a statement confirming that he and St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts "have made a bid to buy the [NFL's St. Louis] Rams and are continuing the process." In response, numerous sports journalists and figures -- including contributors to ESPN, where Limbaugh was briefly employed -- have criticized the idea of Limbaugh as an owner, often noting Limbaugh's history of racially incendiary remarks.

Limbaugh makes bid for Rams

From an October 6 Los Angeles Times blog post:

In a statement released today, Limbaugh said he's partnering with St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts in a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams. Limbaugh didn't go into details, but said he and Checketts "have made a bid to buy the Rams and are continuing the process."

It's unclear whether Limbaugh and Checketts will try to buy the team outright or purchase a majority or minority stake in it. Georgia Frontiere's children own a 60% stake in the team, and billionaire Stan Kroenke owns a 40% stake.

Sports journalists and figures blast idea of Limbaugh as NFL owner

CBSSports.com's Freeman: "My head exploded after hearing this Limbaugh news. ... Limbaugh is a pungent bowl of stark raving bigoted lunacy." In his October 7 column, CBSSports.com national columnist Mike Freeman wrote that his "head exploded after hearing this Limbaugh news," adding that Limbaugh as an owner would "undermine everything the NFL has worked decades to accomplish" with regard to racial diversity:

Limbaugh is a pungent bowl of stark raving bigoted lunacy. He'd be a dream to cover. But for the NFL, Limbaugh as an owner would be as comfortable as a colonoscopy with a periscope. It'd be one of the great nightmares for the sport.

The league has made significant strides in putting its horrid racial past behind it. The NFL isn't perfect on the issues of ethnicity but it tries.

Allowing Limbaugh, who plays the song "Barack the Magic Negro" on his radio show, a seat at the owner's table would instantly undermine everything the NFL has worked decades to accomplish.

WashingtonPost.com's McCardell: "Limbaugh would definitely hurt" the Rams, "the way he talks makes me think he's a racist." In an October 7 post on WashingtonPost.com, former NFL receiver Keenan McCardell wrote that "Limbaugh would definitely hurt the St. Louis Rams if he bought the team. I can only judge what he says on the radio -- but the way he talks makes me think he's a racist." McCardell added:

The NFL is a dominant black league and it's tough to say that a guy who speaks his mind as much as he does with a locker room that's 60% minority would get players' respect. If I were a free agent it would be really hard for me to want to play for him. He'd have to show me that he's a different person. The coach would also have to convince me that this was about football and not politics.

All the players would remember what he said about Donovan McNabb -- what got him fired from ESPN. It's a crazy thing, but it's hard to change what you said once you said it -- hard to get guys to forget and trust again. Sometimes your words speak louder than what you're trying to do.

WashingtonPost.com's Oben: "I'm not sure what's lower: Rush Limbaugh's approval rating in the African American community or JaMarcus Russel's [sic] passer rating." In an October 7 post on WashingtonPost.com, former NFL offensive lineman Roman Oben wrote that "I thought it could not be worse for the St. Louis Rams than being 0-4; I was wrong ... I'm not sure what's lower: Rush Limbaugh's approval rating in the African American community or JaMarcus Russel's passer rating." From Oben's post:

I'm not sure what's lower: Rush Limbaugh's approval rating in the African American community or JaMarcus Russel's passer rating. But in a league of professional athletes who are mostly African American and come from humble backgrounds, a Limbaugh-owned Rams team would neither elicit the warmest reception by the players in the locker room, nor would it attract the free agent who is weighing options on his NFL future.

Anyone who has made a living bashing political leaders and their policies by vicious and unethical personal attacks, accused actor Michael J Fox of "exaggerating the effects of Parkinson's disease," made racially-charged comments about Donovan McNabb's ability as a black quarterback and hypocritically called for harsher punishment for minorities charged with low level drug crimes while himself being criminally addicted to oxycontin for many years, does not represent the honor, integrity and dignity for which the NFL shield is supposed to represent.

Character is a constant point of emphasis for NFL and team officials when it comes to the players; potential owners should be held to the same level of scrutiny and accountability.

Black Sports Online's Littal: "Is this the person you want to be a face of the franchise?" Black Sports Online's Robert Littal wrote in an October 7 post on WashingtonPost.com that "the quality that has afforded Limbaugh the financial assets to be an NFL owner is the same quality that should make it a no brainer why he shouldn't be allowed in the league." Littal added:

Rush Limbaugh is an egomaniac who can't help himself when it comes to making conversational statements. There is no way that he would be a "silent" owner.

Limbaugh couldn't last on ESPN for three weeks before offending his co-workers and the league with his comments about the media wanting Donovan McNabb to succeed because he is black.

Is this the person you want to be a face of the franchise?

Even if you believe, like I do, that Limbaugh is just a "blowhard" it doesn't change the fact his comments can be very insensitive to the public as a whole.

[NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell claims that one of his major concerns with the NFL is its image. If that is the case there is no way Rush Limbaugh should be allowed in league.

Post-Dispatch's Burwell: "Limbaugh's American Dream is a potential nightmare waiting to happen for the Rams." In an October 7 column, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell wrote that "[t]hough I think it is his right to take a shot at becoming part of a new Rams ownership group, Limbaugh's American Dream is a potential nightmare waiting to happen for the Rams, the city and the National Football League." From Burwell's column:

But inside the locker rooms of the NFL, where the overwhelming majority of the players are descendants of slaves, Limbaugh's ignorant ramblings resonate with entirely different emotions.

His money might be green, but his words are colored with hate and intolerance. Bringing Limbaugh back into the NFL family will ultimately be met with the same disastrous effects from the last time it was tried.

Remember the failed experiment with the ESPN NFL pregame show?

Remember the seething anger and pained expression on the face of ESPN analyst Tom Jackson when he tried to express his feelings about what Limbaugh had said in the aftermath of the notorious Donovan McNabb disaster?

[...]

But even if he fit in with his politics, let's hope he doesn't fit in with his polarizing, racist demagoguery. And yes, that is exactly what it is, no matter how many of his blindly loyal supporters want to put the "politically incorrect" party dress on it.

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

Again, those are his words.

ESPN's Blackistone: "We can't have Rush Limbaugh in the NFL. He had his chance and he ruined it." During the October 6 edition of ESPN's Around the Horn, ESPN's Kevin Blackistone said: "Well, the buck's got to stop here with political ownership and teams. We can't have this. Who's next? Glenn Beck's going to want a team? James Carville's going to want a team? You got to nip this thing in the bud. We can't have Rush Limbaugh in the NFL. He had his chance, and he ruined it." ESPN contributor and Denver Post columnist Woody Paige, however, said Limbaugh would be a good owner because "I want an ultraconservative defense out of St. Louis."

ESPN's Cowherd: "[B]ad idea ... you want a low-profile guy running the club." During the October 6 edition of ESPN2's SportsNation, co-host Colin Cowherd said that Limbaugh being an owner is a "bad idea" because for "the fans over time, you want a low-profile guy running the club." Cowherd added: "Rush Limbaugh is a lot of things. Low profile is not one of them. Let's talk about high-profile NFL owners. Dan Snyder, Redskins -- Dumpster fire. Jerry Jones, Cowboys -- right now, underachieving mess. Al Davis, Raiders -- enough said." Co-host Michelle Beadle responded: "I'll just say good but I kind of want [a] maybe [option]." Beadle also said that the show's unscientific poll of viewers found that 56 percent of respondents thought Limbaugh being an owner is a bad idea.

Deadspin.com's Bennett: "Horrible Person Wants To Buy Horrible Team." On October 6, Deadspin.com senior editor Dashiell Bennett wrote a post headlined, "Horrible Person Wants To Buy Horrible Team." Bennett wrote: "Professional blowhard Rush Limbaugh is aiming to become a part-owner of the St. Louis Rams. I guess the team won't be drafting any black quarterbacks from now on. (But at least they'll play pain-free!)"

Yahoo! Sports' Darnell: Limbaugh's "very presence brings politics into the football," he is "so polarizing." In an October 6 post on Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner blog, editor Matthew J. Darnell wrote: "Here's why I don't like the idea: I have my opinion on Rush Limbaugh, and, as we're all about to witness in the comments, everyone else has their opinions on Rush Limbaugh, too. His very presence brings politics into the football discussion. I'd prefer to avoid that, but the man is so polarizing that I don't see any way around it. I couldn't get through the first sentence of this post without a little jab."

Review-Journal says, "If the Rams' present is dim, the future could be more dismal," cites Limbaugh's "history of racially insensitive comments." On October 7, the Las Vegas Review-Journal's sports page wrote: "Los Angeles should be thankful the Rams left for St. Louis 15 years ago. And it has nothing to do with their NFL-worst 14-game losing streak and 5-31 record since 2007. If the Rams' present is dim, the future could be more dismal. Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said in a prepared statement Tuesday that he and St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts have made a bid to buy the Rams ... Could Limbaugh's history of racially insensitive comments prove to be an impediment to luring minority free agents to the Rams?"

Transcripts

From the October 6 edition of ESPN2's SportsNation:

BEADLE: Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says he's teaming up with St. Louis Blues hockey owner Dave Checketts in a bid to buy the St. Louis rams. By NFL rules, the group would have no other choice but to keep the team in St. Louis because of its ties to the Blues. Now, that's good news for fans who love their Rams, but do they love Limbaugh attached to their team? Some people love him, some people not so much. So we asked SportsNation, is Rush Limbaugh and Dave Checketts owning a team good or bad?

COWHERD: A bad idea to me, although they can't get worse. I like low-profile owners. Rush Limbaugh is a lot of things. Low profile is not one of them. Let's talk about high-profile NFL owners. Dan Snyder, Redskins -- Dumpster fire. Jerry Jones, Cowboys -- right now, underachieving mess. Al Davis, Raiders -- enough said. By the way, great franchise, Ravens. Who owns them? Great franchise, Giants. Could you pick their owner out of a group of people? The teams that are great, owners stay low-key.

BEADLE: I mean, you know, say what you will about Rush Limbaugh, it's smart teaming up with Dave Checketts. This guy obviously knows what he's doing. He ran the Utah Jazz, he ran the Knicks --

COWHERD: Yes.

BEADLE: -- owns the Blues. That part is smart. Politics and sports, they somehow always seem to find a way. Remember when the Red Sox were gunning for the World Series, a lot of management, a lot of executives were footing it behind John Kerry, and then you had [former pitcher] Curt Schilling who was very vocal for Bush. So if Limbaugh does -- just stays quietly and just takes in the money --

COWHERD: That'd be great.

BEADLE: -- but being a NFL owner? Then it's not such a --

COWHERD: It's a great investment for Rush. The team is awful. He's buying a great asset, the NFL, at a low point. For Rush, it's a great buy. For the fans over time, you want a low-profile guy running the club.

BEADLE: So we asked SportsNation, is Rush Limbaugh and Dave Checketts owning a team good or bad or Rams fans? You voted --

COWHERD: I would say eventually a bad idea.

BEADLE: Ah, this one is tough. I'll just say good but I kind of want maybe. SportsNation? Bad, 56 percent.

COWHERD: Well, right now, the high-profile --

BEADLE: Tough one.

COWHERD: -- high-profile owners right now are seen as meddlers.

From the October 6 edition of ESPN's Around the Horn:

TONY REALI (host): The St. Louis Rams, up for sale, and Rush Limbaugh is interested. You think he'd make a good NFL owner, Woody Paige?

PAIGE: Yes, I do. You've heard of the wildcat offense. You've heard of the wing-T. How about the right-winged-T? And how about that defensive T -- we've heard about them passing, and the pass, greatest show on turf. I want an ultraconservative defense out of St. Louis. Maybe the Rams have a chance to get back in the race.

BLACKISTONE: Well, the buck's got to stop here with political ownership and teams. We can't have this. Who's next? Glenn Beck's going to want a team? James Carville's going to want a team? You got to nip this thing in the bud. We can't have Rush Limbaugh in the NFL. He had his chance, and he ruined it.

REALI: Ultraconservative defense wins the argument. Point to Woody Paige.

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Rush Limbaugh
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