I don't normally defend conservative radio-star Rush Limbaugh, but his comments on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown this past weekend have not warranted this kind of media frenzy.
Is Rush Limbaugh a racist? I don't know. Many people say he is, writing it in books and citing quotes over the years, but as a Coulter critic who closely watches her twisted tactics, I understand how easy it is to construe the truth in order to favor your argument. According to popular web-blogger Scoobie Davis, Limbaugh said the following on his radio show back during the Trent Lott controversy:
"The Democrats in Mississippi look to be ready to nominate Mike Espy, the former agriculture secretary, to be the new senator from Mississippi that would replace Lott. That'd be a double whammy, to get a Democrat plus an African-American in there to take Trent Lott's seat. That takes the Senate back to 50-50, with Dick Cheney breaking tie votes."
So maybe Limbaugh is a racist; I am not writing this piece to determine that fact. He may be a bigot, but his recent commentary on the Eagle's star quarterback is no evidence of that. Here is exactly what he said last Sunday:
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
As a football enthusiast who considers himself (me) pretty knowledgeable on the subject, I have to wholeheartedly disagree with Limbaugh's statements. If you don't already know, I am a die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan; I've seen the kind of damage McNabb can do. He has taken the Eagles to the NFC title game the last two seasons, and was voted to the Pro Bowl the last three seasons. McNabb has led the Eagles to a 36-22 record in his starts which includes the playoffs. Sure, a great defense helped, but McNabb was definitely a key player. It is true that Philly went 0-2 its first two games before routing Buffalo in the third, however you must consider that the combined score of my Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots against them totaled 48. Where's that great defense Rush was talking about?
So, wrong he is on the greatness of Donovan McNabb, but by no means were his comments racist. I can see where he's coming from and respect him for not being afraid to speak his mind. While I don't think the media tries to glorify black quarterbacks, I do think the NFL takes special care of black coaches. The NFL has implemented what is called the Rooney Rule, which is basically affirmative action in the National Football League for college coaches.
The rule was implemented because there are 32 teams with only three black head coaches. In efforts to increase the number of black coaches, teams are now required to interview black candidates before making a decision. The intention of the rule is good. Blacks deserve a shot to become head coach and should be interviewed, but what happens when a team desires a specific coach in the free market who happens to be white?
The Detroit Lions wanted to hire Steve Mariucci, a great coach who was fired by the 49ers last January. Lions General Manager, Matt Millen, called five black coaches to interview but they all declined because they knew he wanted Mariucci. The black candidates felt it would be a waste of time going in for interviews when they knew the Lions already had a coach in mind, and because Millen couldn't interview a black coach, he got fined $200,000.
There is a better way to try to get more black coaches in the NFL, but the Rooney rule isn't the best method. Owners should be encouraged to interview black candidates, but should not be fined if none are willing to come in for an evaluation. Limbaugh also argues this and has valid points.
Again, we can all have our own opinions regarding NFL policies, but to label someone a racist because he thinks the media or the NFL is giving blacks special attention is wrong. As he said, "My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated." That's fair.
Even ESPN "he could go all the way" personality Chris Berman, who anchors the ESPN show, said he did not believe Limbaugh's tone or intent was malicious. "As cut and dry as it seems in print, I didn't think so when it went by my ears," he said. "I probably should have looked to soften it. We're sorry we upset a guy who got off to a rough start."
But the story ends well for Rush-haters. He has resigned from his post on EPSN and will no longer opine as the "voice of the fan," a segment that increased ratings of the show by 10% and drew its biggest audience in the regular season since 1996.
I'm no fan of Rush Limbaugh, he's as ideological as they come. And maybe he does deserve some of the demonizing similar to what he dished out against President Clinton for the past decade. But because Limbaugh resigned, we'll never know how long ESPN would have held out. Because if they would have actually fired him, then free-speech would have taken a serious blow this past weekend.