Anyone that thought we've made progress on the issue of race was in for a rude awakening in the entire affair surrounding Rush Limbaugh's unsuccessful bid to buy the St. Louis Rams. In fact, all of the ugly undercurrents of race, racism, and race baiting were on full display in the affair. It's hard to choose the worst but in my opinion it was this comment by Warren Ballentine.
At the end of what wound up being a heated debate, Warren Ballentine told Juan Williams to "go back to the porch" indicating that Williams was selling out his race in standing up for Limbaugh.
If that was the worst, it had a lot of competition. One MSNBC commentator suggested that Limbaugh would use his ownership power to create a "plantation". MSNBC, CNN, and the Huffington Post all attributed quotes to Limbaugh that simply were never said by him. DeMaurice Smith, head of the Player's Union, suggested that Limbaugh's assention to an owner would create mutiny within the player ranks. Only after the whole fiasco fell apart was it revealed that Smith is a supporter of Obama. Notorious race baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both suggested that Limbaugh was a racist and thus unfit to own a football team. Some football players suggested they wouldn't play for the Rams if Limbaugh owned the team. (a suggestion that commentator Stephen A. Smith scoffed at)
The NFL saw they were stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. They chose the path of least resistence, or at least the least resistence they perceived. They threw Limbaugh under the bus rather than getting in the middle of a cultural and race war. That didn't surprise me, and it shouldn't have surprised anyone. The NFL wants to avoid controversy at all costs. Furthermore, the folks that Sharpton and Jackson would fire up could do a lot more damage to the NFL than the folks that are sympathetic to Limbaugh. That doesn't make it just reality.
The only truly racist remark that can be attributed to Limbaugh happened back in 1970 when he told a caller to "take that bone out of your nose". While there's no excusing it, that statement was nearly forty years ago. Limbaugh is on the air for three hours each and everyday and all that can really be attributed to him happened nearly four decades ago. Limbaugh mocks, derides, and makes fun of his opponents. There's no question about that. His opponents saw an opportunity. Whether it was political, racial, or opportunistic, people saw an opportunity to get him. Get him they did. That said, fear not for Limbaugh. He still has his megaphone and his platform. For the most part, people now realize that most of the attacks were totally without legitimacy.
What's really troubling is the randomness of it all. Fergie of Black Eyed Peas is currently a part owner of the Miami Dolphins. She's said plenty in both song and in regular comments that are much more controversial than anything Rush ever said. Yet, it was Rush that was deemed "too divisive". Who was he deemed too divisive by? He was deemed too divisive by his opponents. Fergie is a singer. In that business, you don't get opponents and enemies the way you do in politics. So, you can say all sorts of loopy things and no one deems you divisive. Rush is in the middle of a cut throat business, and so he has enemies. Those enemies can stir the pot and remove him from the NFL. This isn't about right and wrong. It's not about who is and isn't divisive. It's about moment and opportunity. Rush's moment to own a team brought about an opportunity. His opponents took that opportunity and made the most of it. As they say, be careful what you wish for. One of these days, the shoe will be on the other foot and someone else will seize another opportunity. The only thing that suffers is race relations and our culture.
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