I saw this on ESPN News whilst eating lunch and found it on: their site

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh said Thursday he resigned from ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” pregame show to protect network employees from the uproar over critical comments he made about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Limbaugh quit late Wednesday, three days after saying on the show that McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

“The great people at ESPN did not want to deal with this kind of reaction,” Limbaugh told the National Association of Broadcasters at its convention in Philadelphia on Thursday. “The path of least resistance became for me to resign.”

George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, accepted Limbaugh’s resignation Wednesday. ABC and ESPN are owned by Walt Disney Co.

“We regret the circumstances surrounding this,” Bodenheimer said. “We believe that he took the appropriate action to resolve this matter expeditiously.”

On Wednesday, McNabb said he didn’t mind criticism of his performance, but was upset Limbaugh made his race an issue and said it was too late for an apology.

“It’s somewhat shocking to hear that on national TV from him,” McNabb said. “It’s not something that I can sit here and say won’t bother me.”

I saw Limbaugh’s commentary “live” Sunday morning and was surprised at the boldness of the remark. I disagree with Rush’s analysis here, in that McNabb has obviously been one of the premier quarterbacks in the league over the last three seasons or so, despite a rather weak start this year.

That said, there’s merit to his larger point, although I’m not sure it applies any longer to quarterbacks. Twenty years ago, a black quarterback was an anomoly in the NFL and even in college. Most black NCAA quarterbacks were of the “option” variety and usually converted to receivers or cornerbacks in the NFL. The Warren Moons and Doug Williamses were the rare exception. Not anymore. There are a number of marquee black quarterbacks, both pocket passers and scramblers.

The current frontier seems to be coaching. There is inordinate pressure at both the college and professional levels to hire black coaches, given that there are so few of them in proportion to the number of black players. The Detroit Lions were fined a huge sum for hiring the coach they wanted without holding token interviews with black candidates–even though they had offered interviews to several black candidates. Coaches like Tony Dungy and Tyrone Willingham seem to get praised far out of proportion to their actual achievement on the football field.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    I’ve always thought McNabb was overrated, period. Race not being an issue. The NFC East has been a cakewalk for the Eagles, and he scrambles, so that makes him “elite.” I don’t buy it.

    that said, I think the whole issue is overblown, and ESPN’s comment about the “appropriate” response shows exactly how little guts this network has.

  2. lefty skeptic says:

    A lot of coaches, black and white, get praised far out of proportion to their actual achievement on the field. In my neck of the woods, Mike Shanahan is called a “genius” (a label I have never heard applied to a black coach), but he doesn’t seem so brilliant without John Elway and Terrell Davis.

  3. James Joyner says:


    Certainly true re: Shanahan. There aren’t that many black head coaches, but I’ve certainly heard some mighty high praise for the few that there have been–Denny Green, Tyrone Willingham, Tony Dungy, and others.

  4. Paul says:

    I disagree with Rush’s analysis here, in that McNabb has obviously been one of the premier quarterbacks in the league over the last three seasons or so,

    McNabb’s Quarterback Ratings:

    1999 60.1
    2000 77.8
    2001 84.3
    2002 86.0
    2003 51.1

    A starter to be sure but not a “premier” QB IMO.

    His is just a tad behind Kerry Collins.

    1999 73.3
    2000 83.1
    2001 77.1
    2002 85.4
    2003 81.2

    And Kerry Collins gets not even half the press McNabb gets. (And the press Collins gets is usually bad) Comparing McNabb’s numbers to other QB’s around the league puts him about in the middle or bottom of the pack of the “good” QB’s.

    I think there is an amazing amount of irony here…

    Rush accused the media of over blowing the story because it has a racial component and they react by running the story wall to wall because Rush said something about race. CNN covered it for almost 10 hours.

    Ya think maybe Rush had a point?

  5. James Joyner says:

    Interesting, although I’ve never been a big fan of QB rating. Troy Aikman was rather mediocre by QBR while any schmoe in a West Coast Offense system puts up huge ratings.

    I think virtually every GM would rather have McNabb over Collins to build around, given the choice.

  6. JadeGold1 says:

    Let’s see, McNabb’s been to 3 straight ProBowls, taken his team to 2 NFC championship games, and was runner-up for the NFL MVP once.

    Hmmm. Limbaugh should stick to what he knows best: racist demagoguery and procuring illegal narcotics.

    The plain fact is Donovan McNabb would be the starter on all but maybe 3-4 NFL teams.

  7. lefty skeptic says:

    No, I don’t think Rush had a point. Hype is part of the sport. White players get hyped. Black players get hyped. I’m pretty sure that everyone here can think of players of both races that are over-hyped.

    For Rush to just pick an example of a black player that has been hyped (deservingly *or* not), and then claim media bias, while ignoring all the hyped and over-hyped white players, is disingenuous.

  8. DANEgerus says:

    Dusty Baker:

    “I’m not playing the race card. I’m telling it like it is,” Baker said by telephone Monday.

    “What I meant is that blacks and Latins take the heat better than most whites, and whites take the cold better than most blacks and Latins. That’s it, pure and simple. Nothing deeper than that.”

    Gets a pass on the Race card… Limbaugh…:

    “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,” Limbaugh said. “There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.”

    Gets the pink slip of course. Which proves his point… notice White Rush Limbaugh criticizes the media, not McNabb… He’s clearly targeting the media for a double standard… but he gets crucified in a ‘rush’ of misquotes and unfounded allegations.

  9. lefty skeptic says:

    No, it doesn’t prove Rush’s point. His point was that the media over-hypes black quarterbacks because they are black. That’s bunk. Rush’s experience may prove some other point, such as how difficult it is to talk about race nowadays without getting everyone all amped up. Maybe more so if you are white … but remember the reaction Reggie White got to his comments?

  10. Anonymous says:

    > experience may prove some other point, such as
    > how difficult it is to talk about race nowadays
    > without getting everyone all amped up

    This is the issue. Rush made an opinion. Is it right? Is it wrong? I personally don’t know and don’t care, but you get people like JadeGold:

    > Limbaugh should stick to what he knows best:
    > racist demagoguery

    You’re thinking Al Sharpton.

    How about debating the merits, or simply saying “no, I disagree”. No, that takes too much brain power. It becomes name calling and silencing of opinion with any who disagree with you. You’d make a good Nazi.

  11. lefty skeptic says:

    Returning to James’ point about coaches.

    Black QBs are commonplace now, and I think that is the main reason nobody feels afraid to say things like “Kordell Stewart sucks” or “Favre is better than McNabb” (whether those things are true or not).
    That’s because questioning the ability of a single black QB is not questioning the ability of them all.
    When there are more black coaches in the league, I think the same thing will happen.

  12. Paul says:

    But here is the kicker..

    Basically what we have is an opportunity for the left wing hates to spew hate.

    And they have.

    IRONICALLY none of the left wing haters here are smart enough to see that they are bashing Rush for “being a hater.”

    The things that have been typed on this site and on Poliblog latley are filled with FAR more hate than anything Rush says.

    All the liberal hate spewers are bashing Rush for spewing hate when they bring it to new level.

    So go head Jadegold et al and tell me how horrible, stupid and evil all republicans are and how YOU would never say anything like Rush.

    You are all a bunch of hate filled foolish hypocrites.

    You spew more hate in a day then he does in a life time.

    Are you too stupid to see it?