SBD/Issue 21/Franchises

NFLPA Stands Opposed To Rush Limbaugh's Effort To Buy Rams

NFLPA's Smith Has Spoken
To Goodell About Limbaugh
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith Saturday "made a move to solidify the union against" radio personality Rush Limbaugh's role in a group bidding to buy the Rams, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com. Smith sent an e-mail to the NFLPA Exec Committee specifically addressing Limbaugh's joint bid with Blues Owner Dave Checketts that read in part, "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." Smith yesterday added, "This communication is more about what we stand for than the reality of our role in any franchise sale." Mortensen noted at least seven NFL players, including Jets LB Bart Scott and Giants DE Mathias Kiwanuka, have "publicly opposed Limbaugh's interest in purchasing the Rams with Checketts." Smith Saturday "encouraged players to speak their mind on all matters, including Limbaugh's bid" (ESPN.com, 10/11). CBS’ Charley Casserly reported Smith “told me that they have no position on the ownership sale of the St. Louis Rams, Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding.” Meanwhile, there are three initial bids for the team, and the "higher bids were in the $750(M) range." Those bids by October 22 "have to be what they call ‘committed.’ In other words, all of the money surrounding the bid must be guaranteed." Casserly: "You might not see all of the three bidders continuing forward in the process” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 10/11).

POSSIBLE BACKLASH FROM PLAYERS: In N.Y., Gary Myers noted Limbaugh's "potential presence as the owner of the Rams has created a backlash from black players who claim they would never play for a team owned by him," so "voting him in would be a mistake." If black free agents "refuse to play for the Rams, and if the Rams black players don't want to play for Limbaugh and refuse to re-sign, imagine the product the Rams will put on the field." Limbaugh is "so outspoken it would be inevitable he would say something to embarrass the NFL and upset his players," and the NFL "does not need a lightning rod like Limbaugh owning one" of its 32 teams. While Myers noted it is "hard to see Limbaugh getting the votes" of approval from NFL owners, one team owner said, "I can't imagine some of the characters who have become owners in different sports" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/11). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "We are back to the Jim Brown era of social activism … and I find this a very intriguing notion that there’s a block of athletes out there who are willing to say something political for the first time in 30 years” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/9). CSN Mid-Atlantic's Al Koken said, "This could have a real serious backlash.” But Washington Post reporter Rick Maese said, "Isn’t that an easy thing to say at this point? At the end of the day, it’s just someone who signs your check” ("Washington Post Live," CSN Mid-Atlantic, 10/9).

DOESN'T MATCH UP: SPORTINGNEWS.com's Chris Littmann wrote, "After reading everything Limbaugh has said and continues to say, you've got to wonder why a man who seems to so openly loathe black people would want to own a business that will largely have those same people as its employees" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/9). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “I don’t know whether Rush Limbaugh is a straight-up bigot or he simply plays one on TV and radio, but he is universally reviled by black people in this country, and justifiably so based on his public pronouncements” ("PTI," ESPN, 10/9). ESPN.com's Jeff MacGregor wrote a "very big part of what American football sells is accountability," and this is "going to be Mr. Limbaugh's biggest problem." Football "sells personal responsibility and teamwork," but Limbaugh has "made his career and his fortune peddling" blame (ESPN.com, 10/9). USA TODAY's Drew Sharp: "The league cannot be that hamstrung in finding deep-pocketed financiers that it's left with no alternative but embracing someone whose occupational practice is making people feel more comfortable within their own prejudices" (USA TODAY, 10/12).

Scott Says He Would Not Play
For Limbaugh-Owned Team
WORTH A CLOSER LOOK: In Buffalo, Larry Felser wrote the "idea of Limbaugh as an NFL owner may not be such a bad idea." Limbaugh worked with the Royals in the '80s, and presumably that association "taught him that the proper way to run a franchise is to hire competent sports people and allow them to do their jobs, a lesson too often lost on some NFL owners." Some contend Limbaugh is "too controversial, too divisive for the NFL, but sports is one thing, politics another" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/11). ESPN's J.A. Adande: "If you don’t like Rush Limbaugh and what he has to say, then don’t sign there as a free agent. If you don’t like it as a fan, don’t pay for tickets to go watch his team. But I don’t think the NFL should ban people based on their political beliefs. I mean, did they come out and do anything when Dan Rooney was an outright supporter of Barack Obama during the election?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/9). In DC, Tom Knott writes the NFLPA's Smith, "it seems, is guilty of what he fears in Limbaugh." Smith "neglects to see that one person's definition of incendiary speech is another person's definition of common sense" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/12).

LEFT GUARD: SI.com's Peter King notes data from Politico.com shows that "no NFL team in the past 20 years has donated more money to the Democratic Party than the Rams." The Rams have given $230,050 to Democrats, or 98% of the franchise's total political donations (SI.com, 10/12).

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