El Rushbo Vs. The Rams (El Rambo?)

I try to avoid Rush Limbaugh like the plague.  Certainly, from time to time, I’ll catch a few minutes of his show while heading out to lunch or feeling a little masochistic, but for the most part I try to keep my distance.  It’s no secret that I dislike his viewpoints (despite having been his biggest cheerleader when I went through my “rebellious conservative” phase in middle school), but it goes deeper than just disagreement… I find him generally irritating.  With that in mind, you can imagine how pleasant the last week of football talk has been around my house.  It’s bad enough to be forced to accept the fact that it’s impossible to make it through a week without hearing some loony quote attributed to the man on The Daily Show or even the “real” news, but now the blowhard has done the unthinkable.  Rush Limbaugh has invaded ESPN.

Readers are surely aware that I’m a sports fan, primarily a football fan.  During the fall months I tend to become slightly obsessed with the sport. Whether it’s the trading deadline, fantasy football rosters or injury reports, watch and reading about the game of football consumes a tremendous amount of my free time… free time that has now been invaded by debates over whether or not Rush Limbaugh should become an NFL owner.  Let me say, on the record, that I have no personal objection to Rush Limbaugh owning a piece of the St. Louis Rams.  He has the money, thus he has a right to make an offer to own his chunk of the team (although, the fact that said team is the RAMS does make me wonder if Rush is back on his meds).  However, buying a professional football team isn’t like strolling into the bank and taking out a loan to build a Starbucks.  The NFL is one of the most popular and profitable organizations in the entire world, one which very carefully crafts an image to maintain this level of profitability and one with eyes clearly set on expanding the game world wide through possible team placement in Toronto and rumored Super Bowls in London.

To put it simply, NFL ownership is an extremely elite club.  One does not simply walk into NFL ownership.

In the last 24 hours, news has come forth that Limbaugh has been dropped from the group vying for Rams ownership.  Naturally, this news has served as a rallying cry for Limbaugh’s fans for various boycotts of the league, protest letters, etc.  A quick journey through the blogosphere made apparent a few common claims as to why Rush won’t be saddling up in the owner’s box in the near future, and in the interest of shedding a bit of sanity on this issue I’d like to take a moment to explain exactly why these claims are ridiculous.

1.  The NFL is racist, promoting African-American interests over those of white folk.

Why is this crazy?  In a league whose player demographic reaches roughly 70% black, the National Football League features exactly one black owner and six head coaches.  While the mark of six African-American head coaches is more closely representative of the NFL as a whole than it has been in the past, the idea that somehow the league is guilty of “reverse-racism” is laughable.  For Limbaugh fans to argue that somehow any form of anti-Caucasian sentiment played a part in his opposition, these individuals would have to willfully ignore the most glaring and obvious facts available.  The NFL is a league dominated on the field by minorities and dominated in the front office by old, white men.  Since Limbaugh (to the best of my knowledge) wasn’t trying out for quarterback of the Rams, that simply won’t wash.  Although, he might have had far more success in that venture.

2.  The NFL is an organization of liberals, shutting Rush out because of his conservative views.

Why is this crazy?  The NFL is anything but an organization of liberals.  The Center for Responsive Politics closely analyzed the patterns of political contribution from NFL owners and employees from 1989-2009, in an attempt to gauge the politics of the league.  To the shock of what should be almost no one, the National Football League leans conservative… very conservative.  In that 20 year span, the political contributions of those active in the league totaled $6.9 million, with 78% of those donations going to Republican candidates.  The idea that a vast left-wing conspiracy exists in a league overwhelmingly dominated by Republican donors seems a little hard to swallow to those willing to spend sixty seconds on a Google search.

3.  The NFL will give “second chances” to dog fighters, violent criminals and drug abusers, but not to Rush Limbaugh.  Clearly this is due to their anti-conservative bias.

Why is this crazy?  Rush Limbaugh’s problems with NFL ownership don’t come from mistakes he’s made in the past, they come from statements he makes each and every day.  If the league protested his ownership bid based on his past issues with drugs, then this argument would be completely valid.  However, the issue surrounding Limbaugh is not his past errors in judgment, but rather his inflammatory radio program, airing 15 hours weekly in every major market in the United States.  There is no “second chance” for someone who has no intent on ceasing to do the very things that caused the issue in the first place.  Whether you agree with Limbaugh’s statements or do not, it’s impossible to argue that they aren’t controversial in nature.  Unless Rush planned on abandoning his program or turning down the rhetoric, he would continue to cause controversy each day of his life, only now reflecting that controversy on a league ever-concerned with its public image.

So please, Limbaugh fans, stop with the conspiracy theories and the boycott threats.  Remember that the NFL did NOT block your hero from owning the team, his ownership group dropped him like a hot potato once they realized that his presence may complicate matters.  The league, the commissioner and the owners are not involved in a conspiracy to silence conservatives and race played absolutely no role in this (other than Limbaugh’s own controversial and often inflammatory remarks about the issue).  The NFL will “protect the shield” at all costs, especially when those costs could involve an owner turning an entire group of people against a team.

In a league with 1,696 players, 32 head coaches, dozens of assistant coaches and Al Davis all under public scrutiny 24 hours a day, controversy is going to come on a daily basis.  From the top-down, the league works to minimize these incidents, putting out fires all around the country each week in order to keep the appearance of the league as squeaky clean as possible.  There was simply no way that a public figure, one as polarizing and controversial as Rush Limbaugh, was going to be invited into the club.  No one would expect Rush to tone down his show, thus leading to an ongoing situation in which Commissioner Goodell would be forced to react to every single inflammatory comment made by one of his owners.  Aside from an incredible waste of the league’s time, this is the worst nightmare of a league already dealing with DUIs, domestic abuse allegations, PETA protests and, again, Al Davis.

Again, I personally have no problem with Rush buying in to the Rams.  The Rams are terrible, Rush isn’t my favorite person on the planet and any realized player boycott of the team would just make the entire situation into even more of a circus.  Hell, I’d love it!   But realistically, does anyone honestly think that this had anything to do with the man’s politics?  Rush is a controversial figure, trying to gain access to an exclusive club of the most vanilla human beings on earth.  The NFL kiddie table is a small one, currently populated by Al Davis, Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder… I’m sorry Rush, but even with the weight loss you’re just not going to fit.

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2 Responses to “El Rushbo Vs. The Rams (El Rambo?)”

  1. Kevin Says:

    He should have gone in quietly as a minority owner and not drawn attention to it. Of course, he’s also Rush Limbaugh and he probably can’t even whisper quietly.

  2. Ted Says:

    I’ve grown very bored of the casual use of “censorship” and “freedom of speech” to mean that anyone can say anything about anything without consequences. It seems to me that this episode illustrates the applicability of two values that conservatives trumpet: consequences and the wisdom of the market.

    Because of what Limbaugh has said in the past, his connection to this financial transaction made it more likely to fail. He was cut from the deal because his presence adversely affected the potential profitability of the deal for all involved. The market has spoken. Adam Smith’s invisible hand bitch slapped Rusty, and hard. Get over it.

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