Rush Limbaugh and the NFL

Now that it’s safe for ESPN to discuss Rush Limbaugh at length, we know Dave Checketts has dropped Limbaugh from his investment group seeking to purchase the St. Louis Rams. The fear here is that the players who spoke out against Limbaugh and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith will cease being vigilant in ensuring that people who would be detrimental to the NFL are kept from inclusion in the league.

Though MODI (Charles Modiano) asked White NFL players where their voices are, there was no thought here of a White NFL player speaking out against Rush Limbaugh. In a perfect world, or even a world where some of the denizens of America are conscious of the environment in which they live and work, the question is viable.

But, in reality?  Not on your life.

There is no hope for a scenario to arise in which White athletes voices will be heard on an issue like that of Limbaugh-Rams. For these athletes to speak, they must be provided a platform to do so.

Other than the few Black players who did speak via the New York Daily News, who, were the other Black NFL players who voiced their feelings about Rush Limbaugh?



It’s not as if the statements made by Mathias Kiwanuka and Bart Scott were prefaced by, “In a letter sent by…” or “In an unsolicited email from…” Writers asked the players the questions, the players responded. Period.
White athletes were almost unanimously not asked to talk about Rush Limbaugh because they live in the portion of America where, “Land of the free,” actually has meaning. They live under a Declaration of Independence that states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” actually applies to them. The only known non-Black NFL player to be found was Kevin Mawae center for the Tennessee Titans. In a commentary by David Climer of the Tennessean that elucidates the privilege of White privilege more than anything else, a lone sentence read:

Titans center Kevin Mawae, who describes himself as a political conservative, said: “For him to make a statement like that is unacceptable.”

In the same commentary, Climers also mentioned that Titans running back LenDale White, who is Black, said he would say “Nay” to Limbaugh’s inclusion in the ranks of the NFL.

There is a basic fallacy in asking about White athletes and why they did not speak about Rush Limbaugh relative to the purchase of the St. Louis Rams. That fallacy first lies in the thought that there is some real reason they should feel compelled to speak in the first place and second, even if a White NFL football player felt a want to speak publicly without first being queried by a reporter, he would first be compelled to think of the consequences for his act.

Each professional athlete in team or individual sports, exists as a one-person corporation – a corporation in the truest sense of the word as its present meaning suggests. One act of consciousness might cost an NFL player, not only endorsements while he has an on-field career, but might cost him and his family millions after his time on the field is done.

And after all that is considered, there is the question of what it takes for a person to speak out on such a topic.

For someone, anyone -athletes and writers alike – to make an accurate, fully-realized and contextualized statement about Rush Limbaugh, it takes more than a pithy or snarky sentence or paragraph, followed by the equivalent of, “moving right along in the world of sports…:” It takes something other than the following examples from these writers who did comment on the Limbaugh-Rams issue:

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.

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.

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.


“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.”


“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!)”


“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.”


“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?”

Each of the writers, or in the case of Kevin Blackistone, columnist and regular television show guest who mentioned Limbaugh’s political leanings, either went easy on, or incorrectly labelled the virulent racist. Others averred that Limbaugh’s inclusion into the NFL politicizes sports. Still others claimed he is nothing more than an “egomaniac” or “blowhard.” Finally, one columnist defended the NFL’s horrific racial practices: “The NFL isn’t perfect on the issues of ethnicity but it tries.”

Like how the NFL took 30 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to acknowledge that they even had a problem with 32 White owners hiring Black head coaches, the NFL is trying. As in the discrepancy between the type of and length of suspensions handed out by Roger Goodell to White and Black NFL players, the NFL is trying.

* * *

While the altruistic whim – White to Black altruism – of thinking White athletes can he held to the flame is laudable, it is based in the allegedly higher-minded search for that thing called “utopia.” The concept of utopia is part and parcel of why we continue exist in the racial conditions we do. In essence, when Black people mimic the White search for utopia they-we can do no greater injustice to ourselves and because we will, at some point, interact with other Black people, to each other – which inevitably has a rippling effect that will someday reach the edges of the Black Diaspora.

After all, when you pursue uo topos, or, “no place,” you will get uo prayma, or, nothing – or a thing so malleable and easily manipulated by those who hold power that the result is a humanity that resembles rabbits chasing carrots on sticks rather than thinking and humane humans.

And utopia is the perfect “no thing” to urge people to embark on a search for, when what they really want is to be syn topos, or, “some place.”
Black people in America, like every White person in the U.S., seek their place in American society. But woefully, black people in America are placed wherever we need to be placed by the White power structure that rules our society. That tenet is how Sean Hannity can have two Black guests – Stephen A. Smith and Michael Meyers – of opposing politics on his show to discuss Rush Limbaugh, have them at times take each other’s side in an effort to curry favor with Hannity and Fox producers, show the viewership a photo of NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, while Hannity, never mentioning Goodell, blames Al Sharpton for the NFL team owners decision to exclude Limbaugh from potential ownership of an NFL team.

Meantime, no “progressive” or “liberal” sports writer or columnist even recognized that the true star of the effort to keep Limbaugh out of the NFL show was NFL Player’s Association chief, DeMaurice Smith. In an email to the union’s executive committee addressing Limbaugh’s bid to own the Rams, Smith said:

”I’ve spoken to the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] and I understand that this ownership consideration is in the early stages. But sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends. Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred.”

“I have asked our players to embrace their roles not only in the game of football but also as players and partners in the business of the NFL,” said Smith in the e-mail. “They risk everything to play this game, they understand that risk and they live with that risk and its consequences for the rest of their life. We also know that there is an ugly part of history and we will not risk going backwards, giving up, giving in or lying down to it.

“Our men are strong and proud sons, fathers, spouses and I am proud when they stand up, understand this is their profession and speak with candor and blunt honesty about how they feel.”

Smith’s statement was subtle but pointed. He spoke to the higher values of American and Americans that are, ideally, informed by the national morality established by the men who derived the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. In doing so, Smith summed up the essence of the best side of the image the owners of National Football League seek to extol, defended every Black player in the NFL, massaged the owner’s egos on the subject of racism, and removed the specter of the player’s “thug image” the sports media so loves to use to generate readership and website hits.

And DeMaurice Smith never mentioned Rush Limbaugh’s name. Just as no mainstream sports writer, other than columnist Ray Ratto, mentioned DeMaurice Smith’s name.

But that’s fine.

The question is, what happened to all the other journalists? Bryan Burwell and Jason Whitlock are in Missouri, so they are bound by their proximity to the Rams to write something about Limbaugh’s bid to purchase the Rams issue. Other columnists have local and national platforms on which they could have made bold pronouncements about Limbaugh, race and sports, race and America. Instead, for all but Whitlock, these writers chose to stir the pot, then go meekly into the night.

Sure, they gave the appearance of following in the great tradition of journalism to move local and national conversation in a way that might push America’s citizens toward a new paradigm of thought, as evidenced by Media Matters’ aggregation of quotes from sports journalists around the country.

But the statements made were little more than a simulacra of a real effort to stimulate talk in the general populace.

Yet Jason Whitlock chose his national forum as a columnist, to air his distaste for the neo-fascist Limbaugh. Though Whitlock, when tackling issues dealing with race and sports, can be confounding – maddening, in fact – his goal is to generate the big idea, make the big statement, no matter the side of an issue he chooses. And, unlike the vast majority of his manistream peers, on the issue of Limbaugh, Whitlock dared to err on the side of greatness. In declaring Limbaugh’s bid to be part of Dave Checkett’s group of investors vying to own the St. Louis Rams a publicity stunt, Fox Sports and Kansas City Star columnist pulled back the covers on Limbaugh’s serial media whore personality.

It was a cue for other sports writers to follow and complete the picture of the radio show host and de facto leader of the neo-fascist, anti-gay rights (but often closet homosexual), racist, misogynist, xenophobic, and jingoist sect of the Republican Party. It is believed here that Limbaugh was initially serious in his want to be a part of the NFL owner’s fraternity, as the vast majority of NFL franchise ownership shares Limbaugh’s far-right political stances.

However, at the first sign of what would be a growing, public anti-Limbaugh sentiment, the media whore in Limbaugh took over. The media personality’s throne has been recently challenged primarily by Fox News resident agent provocateur, Glenn Beck. When Beck’s visage, tongue poking in his singular and spooky combination childish humor and churlish meanness, adorned the cover of Time magazine, Limbaugh had to comprehend the threat that Rupert Murdoch favorite American television pet – Beck – posed to Limbaugh’s place as preeminent American anti-icon, icon. And by stating that his publicly-announced removal from the Checketts group by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Goodell was no less than a battle for ideological primacy in the United States (but blaming that removal on every Black bogeyman from Sharpton to President Obama), Limbaugh once again placed himself – as only a White man can – at the center of all present political firestorms.

Think Limbaugh was “divisive” before this incident? Think again. Nothing compares to his current, and it can be said with certainty, the near future race-dividing verbiage he has already and will spew.

In the mid-to-late 20th century America has witnessed a military and intelligence organizations coup d’etat through the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and ideological coup d’etat through the October Surprise, the Iran-Contra drugging of America, and the establishment of an internment camp for U.S. citizens mindset as spawned by Oliver North’s brazen “Rex 84.”
Rush Limbaugh is angling to be the catalyst for the first 21st century coup d’etat. It is Limbaugh’s wish to preside over a media coup d’etat through heightening base fear and raging – transposed self – hate in the U.S. to the point where we are at the brink of a racial Civil War that will be sometimes deadly physical and always deadly psychologically, due to the election of America’s first Black President.

Sports journalists could have acted as catalysts for political writers to continue to run with the conversation they began, placing Limbaugh’s ownership effort in the aforementioned, and additional contexts.

But for his efforts, editors at removed Whitlock’s column from its website. It would be easy to tell Whitlock to eat crow, as he has stated for anyone and all to hear that he is of such stature in the world of sports journalism that he can write whatever he chooses without fear of reprisal. But in the case of this particular column and its subject matter, there is no time for turning on Whitlock.

Though Fox can do whatever it wishes as far as maintaining control over the content it disseminates, Whitlock’s column had to viewed by an, or many editors, before it was posted to the website. That the column never should have seen the light of the Internet is an easy call.

The posting and subsequent removal of Whitlock’s commentary was a purposeful show of power by Fox and a shot across the bow at every sports writer, mainstream or otherwise, in America.

And as proof that the Fourth Column is a thing of the past or is little more than a quaint concept based solely in a utopia, instead of rising to his defense and facing down Fox Sports for its censorship of Whitlock, sports writers and columnists fell silent on the issue.

We are, today for better or worse, a majority the native sons and daughters of America. It is time we began to seek, find, internalize the values that are common to us all. And we need to begin to shift the conversation in this country away from Rush Limbaugh or from our largely corporate-sponsored government.

We need to form the foundation for a counter coup d’etat – a citizen’s coup. One that results in each of us having Some Place and value in and to American society.

And we need to begin now.

D.K. WILSON writes for Sports On My Mind. He can be reached at: