SBD/Issue 24/Franchises

NFL Sources: Checketts Enhanced Rams Bid By Dropping Limbaugh

Checketts Dropping Limbaugh From Rams
Bid Group Is Front-Page News In St. Louis
The group bidding to buy the Rams led by Blues and Real Salt Lake Owner Dave Checketts "enhanced its status" yesterday by severing ties with conservative talk-radio personality Rush Limbaugh, according to NFL sources cited by Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. A league source said, "Now Checketts can have a restart on this thing and he can clean it up. This makes the Checketts group more competitive ... it probably puts them in the top three (bidders)." An NFL source said Limbaugh was "very unhappy" when informed he was dropped from the bid group. Thomas notes the "exact makeup and breakdown of Checketts' ownership group," the only one publicly identified thus far, "remains unknown, not just to the public but to the NFL and the Rams." But sources said that they "did not anticipate any problems replacing Limbaugh's potential investment in the team." NFL sources indicated that Limbaugh has "been aligned with the Checketts bid for a couple of months," though it did not become public until last week (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/15).

MOVING ON WITHOUT HIM: Checketts yesterday issued a statement regarding his bid for the Rams -- the first time he has publicly addressed the situation -- confirming his interest in purchasing the team. Checketts also addressed Limbaugh's role in the bid, saying, "Rush was to be a limited partner. ... However, it has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions; endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him" (THE DAILY). Checketts' statement came shortly after Limbaugh on his radio show vowed that he "had no intentions of dropping his efforts to buy the team." Limbaugh said, "I'm not even thinking of exiting. ... It's a sad thing that our country, over 200 years old now, needs pioneers all over again, but we do" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/15). Limbaugh had said that he "would take an active role in managing the team" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/15).

RUSH'S SIDE OF THE STORY: Limbaugh opened today’s episode of his radio show talking about the failed Rams partnership. He said he saw Checketts at a golf course near St. Louis, and that Checketts talked to him about the possibilities of the Rams deal. Checketts and his group went to Limbaugh's home in late May or early June and made their pitch, telling him, “We would like you very much to be a part of this.” Limbaugh said a brief financial breakdown of what would be involved was discussed. Limbaugh: “Based on what he showed me, I said, ‘OK, I’m in.’ I said to him, ‘Are you aware of the firestorm [this will lead to]?’” Limbaugh noted Checketts acknowledged yes, saying, "I wouldn’t have approached you if I hadn’t taken care of that.” He said Checketts assured him that he would not have approached him if he had not “cleared your involvement with people at the highest levels.” Limbaugh: “He gave me some names … and he led me to believe it was all handled and he was fully prepared what was going to happen.” Limbaugh said Checketts called him Tuesday night and asked him to withdraw from the bid. Limbaugh said, “But I thought you had this wired?” Checketts said that he could not “go forward with you in the group.” Limbaugh, “I said ‘I won’t withdraw. You go public and you fire me.’ Which he did” (“The Rush Limbaugh Show,” 10/15).

NEVER STOOD A CHANCE: SI.com's Don Banks cited NFL sources as saying Limbaugh's role in any Rams bid had "zero chance" of being approved by a necessary 75% majority of the league's owners. A league source said, "The league would be on pins and needles for three hours a day, five days a week. The NFL isn't interested in having its own Mark Cuban situation, where (the Dallas Mavericks owner) is fined for something he said, but then pays the fine, moves on and doesn't care what he says the next time either. The league wants the focus to always be on the game, not the opinions of any particular owner" (SI.com, 10/14). In Philadelphia, Ashley Fox writes there was "no place for Limbaugh in the NFL," and the "rush to judgment was swift, effective and now complete." This was about a "professional sports league not wanting to have an alleged racist among them" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/15). Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski: "He had no chance, and the thing with Limbaugh is he's trying to turn this into this is an attack on political conservatism. ... What this is is people do not want a bigot as an owner. He's a racist" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/14). Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo yesterday said, "The NFL is obviously a diverse workplace and you've got to be pretty sensitive to everybody's needs. You can't alienate any group." But Dolphins LB Channing Crowder contends, "If Rush Limbaugh will sign the checks, everybody will play for him" (PALM BEACH POST, 10/15).

DID NOT NEED THE RISK: ESPN's Colin Cowherd said the NFL is "so powerful it doesn't need anybody. Rush Limbaugh is a very controversial host, and the NFL is like a very elite country club and they're not going to let members in just because you have the money. They don't need to gamble" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 10/14). ESPN's Jim Rome: "It's like trying to join Augusta National or any other exclusive golf club: It doesn't matter how much money you have or how famous you are, if they don't like you, you're not getting in and they don’t need to provide you with an explanation" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/14).

Owners Question Checketts'
Involvement With Limbaugh
SHOULD HAVE CHECKED TWICE? Checketts in his statement asserted that Limbaugh's involvement "made sense because he was born 100 miles south of St. Louis, is an avid NFL fan, and had an interest in keeping the Rams in St. Louis." But several NFL owners "quietly wondered why a savvy businessman like Checketts would hitch his hopes for the Rams to Limbaugh" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/15). An NFL source "voiced puzzlement over Checketts not discerning the potential backlash of Limbaugh's participation." The source said, "I would have assumed he would have run it up the flagpole with the league before it became known. Then a tepid response would have told him where things stood" (SI.com, 10/14). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes Checketts now will "have to scramble for that kind of money, and it won't be that simple for him to make skittish owners forget about the association with such a controversial personality" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/15). In Salt Lake City, Kurt Kragthrope notes Checketts "showed signs of enlightenment, and just in time." It became clear in recent days that Checketts "miscalculated the big mouth's ability to lie low, and that he should have had more misgivings about including him even in a minor role" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/15). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes Checketts is "normally a smooth operator with keen instincts," but he "never saw it coming, the fierce firefight that erupted." However, Checketts has proven to be an "effective leader," and "that's why, when facing a heavy blitz of political correctness, Checketts chose to take the safe way out" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/15). The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER's Fox writes, "At least Checketts came to his senses" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/15).

UNDER REVIEW: CNBC.com's Darren Rovell noted some sources "expect Limbaugh to fight Checketts." But Rovell wrote, "I don't. I expect the straight shooter in Roger Goodell to call Limbaugh up and say his money is not welcome at any time. You can do that when you're a private business. Even if you are trying to assist in selling a hopeless team" (CNBC.com, 10/14). In Orlando, George Diaz writes talk of Limbaugh's interest in the Rams "turned ugly the last few days," and that "does absolutely nothing to advance race relations in this country." Diaz: "That's the game that Rush plays. And that's not in the NFL playbook" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/15). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Ethan Skolnick wrote the NFL "should not have blackballed Rush Limbaugh, which is essentially what it did." The league "should have let 'market forces' ... work." It should have let Limbaugh "go through the process, rather than applying enough public pressure to force his removal" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/14). WSCR-AM’s Matt Rodewald said Limbaugh "comes out a winner" in the situation because the NFL likes the "quiet aspect of the league, and he gets all the PR and he gets to come away looking good for once” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” CSN Chicago, 10/14).

Irsay Has Said He Would Vote
Against A Group Including Limbaugh
POT CALLING THE KETTLE? YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted Colts Owner Jim Irsay, who Tuesday vocalized his opposition to Limbaugh's interest, was "part of perhaps the most contemptible ownership moment in recent NFL history -- lying to the city of Baltimore for months before taking" the Colts to Indianapolis. Chase: "I just find it amusing that Irsay is publicly taking the moral high ground after he and his family willfully abandoned it so long ago. ... Jim Irsay should be careful throwing stones from that glass house of his" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/14). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote, "I think longtime Baltimore sports fans are going to find it humorous that Irsay would suddenly get all high and mighty" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 10/14).

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: In Manchester, Lawrence Donegan writes under the header, "NFL's Resistance To Rush Limbaugh Puts English Football To Shame." The NFL, like English soccer, has "strict guidelines on who can and cannot own a team," but unlike English soccer, "these guidelines are strictly applied, not just in letter but also in spirit." Donegan: "What a stunning contrast to the self-serving indifference and greed that has characterised the response of football in this country as a succession of hucksters and tinpot dictators have tunnelled all the way into the very heart of the game" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 10/15).

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