The old term “political football” took on a whole new meaning with word that conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was part of a group hoping to purchase the St. Louis Rams.
After some players commented that they wouldn’t want to play for a Limbaugh-owned franchise, and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith voiced concerns on the matter, others stepped into the fray to publicly denounce the idea — everyone ranging from Colts owner Jim Irsay to commissioner Roger Goodell to predictable publicity-seekers Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
And so it ended up that the group headed by Dave Checketts, where Limbaugh would have been a minority partner, decided to move on in their pursuit of the Rams without the controversial conservative commentator.
Yes, Limbaugh’s views can be polarizing on certain subjects. His relentless attacks on liberals have at the same time made him entertaining, influential, antagonizing and rich.
There are those who even paint Limbaugh as the unofficial spokesman of the Republican Party. But he no more speaks for all Republicans than Jackson or Sharpton speak for all Democrats. The fact of the matter is, Limbaugh is not so much a politician, but an outspoken conservative who above all is — an entertainer and a businessman.
He speaks his opinions, and those opinions draw an audience and a reaction — no different than Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann or any of the many others who make their living discussing and even railing on the ideas and issues coming out of Washington.
The fact that he has those who believe in him eating out of his hand, and those who detest his message going out of their way to sabotage and critique his every word is a testament to just how effective Limbaugh is at doing what he does.
But the NFL wanted no part of Limbaugh’s outspokenness — Goodell said as much earlier in the week.
The fact of the matter is Limbaugh would have only owned a small stake in the Rams. He would not have been the mouthpiece of the organization, only a minority shareholder.
But outside of George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones, how many pro sports franchise owners can the non-avid sports fan really name off the top of their head?
Need proof? The Boston Red Sox recent blip of success has helped make them enormously popular among many who follow baseball on a casual, or even bandwagon, basis. Who owns them?
The answer is John Henry. But unless you’re a big baseball fan or have ties to the Boston area, I could have told you a conglomerate from Taiwan owned the BoSox and many of you wouldn’t have known the difference.
Heck, not many people knew that George W. Bush had once owned baseball’s Texas Rangers until he was elected President in 2000.
So based on that, what did it really matter that Limbaugh would have had a small stake in the Rams? If he had the money and wanted to do it, why not?
Does anyone associate Microsoft with the Seattle Seahawks? The same guy, Paul Allen, owns both.
Titans’ owner Bud Adams made his money in oil, but is anyone thinking about gas prices while watching Keith Bulluck make a tackle or Kerry Collins throw a pass?
It is possible to separate the two entities, even if you love one and despise the other.
Look at it this way. When I buy a new CD, it’s because the music of the artist appeals to me. When I’m listening to it, I’m not thinking about whether the drummer’s view of the health care reform matches my own.
But the guess here is that in the end, NFL owners steered clear of such a polarizing figure, choosing instead to stay the course in their usual vanilla way of doing business.
Imagine that, the NFL being too conservative for Rush Limbaugh.