By Dave Zirin
National Football League owners could be on the verge of a catastrophic error in judgment. In a league that is 70 percent African-American, an unapologetic racist is in talks to buy a team. Yes, Rush Limbaugh, along with St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts, is close to buying the St. Louis Rams. In his last NFL intervention, the man who claims “talent on loan from God” lasted less than a month as an NFL commentator on ESPN after saying the Philadelphia Eagles' Donavon McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.
Limbaugh said to KMOX radio, "Dave and I are part of a bid to buy the Rams, and we are continuing the process. But I can say no more because of a confidentiality clause in our agreement with Goldman Sachs." So Rush Limbaugh, champion of East Coast elite-bashing, is in financial cahoots with bailout world champion Goldman Sachs.
But financial scuzziness aside, Limbaugh's bid must be stopped. The NFL owners have the power to nix any prospective owner, and if they have a shred of conscience in their overfed, underworked bodies, they should collectively veto Limbaugh's joining their exclusive club.
This has nothing to do with Limbaugh's conservative politics. Most NFL owners are to the right of Dick Cheney. Over the last twenty years, officials on twenty-three of the thirty-two NFL clubs have donated more money to Republicans than Democrats.
Most of them are also anonymous figures on the sports landscape. However, with Limbaugh at the helm, the face of one of the most valuable sports properties in the world would officially be a person who has a history of brazen contempt for people of African heritage.
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."
In a league that has practiced historic partnerships with the NAACP, how can you have an owner who has said, “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."
In a league with an all-white ownership and a paucity of African Americans in front office positions, how can you have an owner who says, “We didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back; I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
In a league that has long had a mutually beneficial interaction with whoever was occupying the oval office, how can you have an owner who compares the President to a Nazi and says about “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?"
You might think that NFL players with their nonguaranteed contracts and short shelf life may not be the first people to speak out against Limbaugh. But you'd be wrong.
New York Giant Mathias Kiwanuka said in the New York Daily News , "I don't want anything to do with a team that he has any part of. He can do whatever he wants; it is a free country. But if it goes through, I can tell you where I am not going to play."
McNabb said in his weekly press conference, "If he's rewarded to buy them, congratulations to him. But I won't be in St. Louis anytime soon."
New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott said, "I can only imagine how his players would feel.... He could offer me whatever he wanted; I wouldn't play for him."
In the NFL there has always been one code of conduct for players and one for ownership. Retired player Roman Oben called out the hypocrisy perfe ctly: "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."
Oben is absolutely right. In a league where commissioner Roger Goodell constantly drones on about "character," the idea that a prominent bigot could rise to a position of power would be an example of unforgivable hypocrisy. Tell your local NFL owner: you must flush Rush.
Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com .