Rush Limbaugh Dropped from Rams Bid Team

limbaugh-ramsMissouri native Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from membership in a group seeking to buy the St. Louis Rams and keep them in the city.  This speeds up the inevitable conclusion fo the NFL’s owners refusing to let the controversial pundit join their ranks.

Limbaugh was to be a limited partner in a group headed by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts. Checketts said in a statement Wednesday that Limbaugh’s participation had become a complication in the group’s efforts and the bid will move forward without him.

Checketts told the Associated Press he will have no further comment on the bid process.

Three-quarters of the league’s 32 owners would have had to approve any sale to Limbaugh and his group. Earlier this week, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay predicted that Limbaugh’s potential bid would be met by significant opposition. Several players have also voiced their displeasure with Limbaugh’s potential ownership position, and NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, who is black, urged players to speak out against Limbaugh’s bid.

A Limbaugh spokesman told ESPN that Limbaugh would have no comment on Wednesday. Earlier, on his syndicated radio show, Limbaugh was defiant, holding on to hope that he still could be part of the ownership group that buys the Rams. “This is not about the NFL, it’s not about the St. Louis Rams, it’s not about me,” Limbaugh said. “This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative. “Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have.”

I’m sympathetic to Limbaugh here, in that he’s been smeared by made-up quotes and vilified for making perfectly reasonable and legitimate political arguments in a provocative manner.  Conservatives are frequently branded as “racists” and “sexists” and “homophobes” as a tool of stifling debate. While I long ago got tired of his shtick, I still think he’s a decent guy who’s made a lot of enemies with his act.  Given that he’s been doing three hours of live radio five days a week just about every day for nearly twenty years, he’s bound to have said quite a few stupid things.

Further, there’s an argument to be made that he’d be good for the NFL.  He’s a true fan of the game and loves his boyhood home, so he’d bring a lot of passion to his minority stake in the Rams.  And this bid is the best chance to keep the team in the city.   He could be an NFL version of Mark Cuban, which the No Fun League could use.

Among those making pretty powerful arguments against Limbaugh’s bid, ironically, is Mark Cuban.

The problem with Rush is that its his job to take on all of life’s partisan issues and problems.  Not only is it his job to take on these issues and problems, its key to his success that he be very opinionated about whichever issues he feels are important to him and/or will cause his very large audience to tune in.  Given that we will never know what the “next big issue ” in this world that Rush will be discussing on his show is,  its impossible for the NFL to even try to predict or gauge the impact on the NFL’s business if something controversial, or even worse yet, something nationally polarizing happens. There is an unquantifiable risk that comes with the size of Rush’s audience.  The wrong thing said on the show, even if its not spoken by Rush himself,  about a sensitive national or world issue could turn into a Black Swan event for the NFL.

Thats a huge risk that is not commensurate with the value a minority investment in a franchise brings.

This isnt about Free Speech. Its about the NFL protecting their business.  There is no reason to put it at risk.  If Rush were to retire from his show, or become a local DJ in Sacramento, or just about anything else he may want as a vocation, then I dont think they would have any problem with him being an investor in a team.

And, frankly, in the Age of YouTube, even a local shock jock would have the same issue.

Steven Taylor points out that the NFL is institutionally conservative on such matters:

First, the NFL is extremely image conscious and Rush makes a living going out of his way to say things that make somewhere between 30%-60% of the population mad on a daily basis (depending on what he is talking about).  As such, it is hardly a shock that some NFL owners are a bit skittish about welcoming him into their ranks.

The second business point I would make is that this is a case of pure capitalism at work:  private owners making decisions concerning with whom they are willing to do business.  Conservatives really have no ideological grounds to object if the NFL owners have found Limbaugh too controversial for their business tastes.   Heck, if Major League Baseball thinks Mark Cuban is too controversial, it is hardly a shock that there was pushback on Limbaugh from the NFL.

All of this does boil down, however, to the voting rules, as institutions do matter.  To wit:  for a purchase to be approved, 75% of the league’s owner have to agree on the sale.  There are 32 teams, meaning 24 had to say yes, but much more importantly, only 9 had to say no.   One of the simple facts that is often ignored by casual observers about super-majority rules is that they empower the minority substantially.

Add to that, by the way, that the League is about to enter into serious labor negotiations that are already extremely contentious.  No way are the owners, who need serious concessions from the players to realign the business model, going to antagonize the union — which is overwhelmingly comprised of African Americans — by accepting an owner that many players deem racist.  (Now, if Limbaugh were the majority bidder and offering to substantially overpay for the Rams, it might well be a different story.)   Fair?  No.  But not much about the business of professional sports is.

Now, as Doug Powers and others point out, the NFL has some shady characters in its midst already.  But there’s a much higher tolerance for thuggish behavior on the part of great athletes than for prospective owners. Rick Moran notes, too, that the NFL has always been way behind the other leagues in minority hiring. But that’s really all the more reason for owners to be cautious.

Sean Hackbarth argues that Limbaugh has done himself no favors, either.

Rush failed to treat his quest as a campaign with the end goal being a stake in an NFL team. He played the politics wrong and lost this chance to be an owner. With better preparation the conservative giant would have better anticipated the attacks against him and eased the worries of certain owners during the firestorm.

As soon as he had an inkling to want to own an NFL team Rush needed to start laying the groundwork to make sure there wouldn’t be nine opposing votes. He should have started a process years in advance to soothe owners’ fears that he wouldn’t be an annoyance as an owner. Owners are businessmen who love football, so they would prefer to focus on improving their teams and growing their fan bases instead of dealing with the distraction of the latest fake-controversy created by Rush’s opponents. Running a business is partially about managing risks. Controversy is a risk that can be avoided, so it’s not a surprise NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said what he said.

Finally, as Tom Maguire observes, “Rush, love him or hate him he has made fabulous living being controversial and (that awful word) divisive.  That has opened some doors to him and, unsurprisingly, closed others.  Quel surprise.”

FILED UNDER: Media, Race and Politics, Sports, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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.

Comments

  1. Given that most professional sports teams receive significant government subsidy, doesn’t this create a first ammendment issue?

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I am wondering if Rush does not have some legal recourse as he is being denied and can show financial damage from being denied partial ownership of a franchise which would be available to him if it were not for his political opinion. He also may have been damaged by false allegation that he made statements not in evidence. If you are going to say Rush said something derogatory about a group or race, I suggest you better have a recording of it. O’Reilly investigated the allegation and declared it false. Slander suits against Rev. Al and Rev. Jesse would leave a mark. Maybe it would cause them to think (I doubt it) before they started race baiting.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    The last I had read, the U.S. and most state constitutions did not protect one from discrimination on the basis of political opinion. I know some states now protect an employee from being fired for their political opinions, which I suspect does more to protect the anti-semitic racist hate-monger at the reception desk than the 99% of the people an employer won’t imagine firing for their political views. Not good business.

    This was a prospective partnership. I would hate to live in a country in which people can’t choose their business (or marital) partners without judicial oversight.

  4. Derrick says:

    Given that most professional sports teams receive significant government subsidy, doesn’t this create a first ammendment issue?

    I think that you should take one of those pre-law courses at a CC before opining on first amendment issues again.

    Slander suits against Rev. Al and Rev. Jesse would leave a mark.

    Again, I hope your not a lawyer. Slander has an extremely high bar in this country for celebrities. And I doubt a court case where Rush’s record was scrubbed even more thoroughly for accounts of his racist views would do well for his reputation. And I doubt he has the stomach for that, or maybe he does.

  5. odograph says:

    Made-up quotes?

    If that’s true I’ll give you an easy one. Show me a real quote where Rush said anything reasonable about global warming and climate change.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Show me a real quote where Rush said anything reasonable about global warming and climate change.

    His views on those issues have no bearing on his fitness to own an NFL team. Race, on the other hand, is a critical issue.

  7. markm says:

    And, frankly, in the Age of YouTube, even a local shock jock would have the same issue.

    In the age of facebook, the average schmo would have the same issue. I’ve read one of the initial checks on hiring an employee is looking at their facebook page.

    I just think it’s funny that, for whatever reason, owners/players don’t want Rush to be a partial owner in the NFL as the NFL is some sort of high water mark that is immune to controversy. If Rush were a partial owner, would Plaxico have shot himelf twice??. Would illegal or performance enhancing drug use somehow increase??. Would Michael Vick have franchised his dog fighting operation???.

    What a farce.

  8. Snap quiz: “Who are the minority owners of the NY Yankees?”

    The fact that Limbaugh’s involvement in this group was leaked, IMO, puts the NFL in a bit of a fix. Are not these matters supposedly ‘in-house’ while the League does due diligence to ascertain whether the proposal meets fiscal scrutiny? There is no mention of any of the other members of the group, and the media has portrayed this as if Limbaugh=Steinbrenner… which just isn’t true.

    Is the NFL ready for every single owner of the slightest piece of one of their franchises to be put under the microscope? Because that is what Limbaugh’s “dittoheads” with a passing acquaintance with Google are about to do.

  9. Eric says:

    I’m sympathetic to Limbaugh here, in that he’s been smeared by made-up quotes and vilified for making perfectly reasonable and legitimate political arguments in a provocative manner.

    Come on, James. You’re being quite milquetoast-y here. Sure, Limbaugh *may* have been so vilified in certain instances, but on balance he’s said many more things that are spiteful, mean-spirited, bigoted, and hateful than merely “controversial.” I think this is really beyond dispute at this point. I mean, it’s certainly possible to be controversial without being offensive, but can anyone really in their heart of hearts truly believe Limbaugh has been primarily anything other than offensive?

    I am wondering if Rush does not have some legal recourse as he is being denied and can show financial damage from being denied partial ownership of a franchise which would be available to him if it were not for his political opinion.

    O’Reilly investigated the allegation and declared it false.

    Well, there you have it, folks. Everything that’s wrong with wingnut logic in one simple sentence.

    I just think it’s funny that, for whatever reason, owners/players don’t want Rush to be a partial owner in the NFL as the NFL is some sort of high water mark that is immune to controversy

    Actually, it’s funny how righties in general complain all the time about low-class athletes sullying sports, but suddenly are willing to allow an exception for Limbaugh.

    If Rush were a partial owner… Would illegal or performance enhancing drug use somehow increase??

    Yes. Oxycontin use among owners would increase. Or is it just athletes that abuse drugs? (Got ya on that one, didn’t I?)

  10. Herb says:

    I think you have something about how this is a “conservative” move for the NFL. They have an audience much, much larger than Rush’s (and a business that’s way more lucrative) and can ill afford the controversy.

    With that said, the NFL gets more and more racially diverse every year, not just on the field, but on the sideline, in the front office, in the commentator booth, and even…if you’ve been following the Dolphins, in the owners suite. I expect that trend to continue.

    And maybe, if he calms down on the racial stuff, someday Rush might find his place too.

  11. Benedict says:

    I am curious, James, as to how you square your analysis of the Rush / Rams situation with the continued employment by the NFL / NBC of Keith Olbermann?

    Is Olbermann NOT a “divisive” figure (to use the euphemism du jour)? Is Olbermann NOT despised by a huge chunk of the NFL’s audience? And as a central figure in the broadcast of the NFL’s marquis game each week, isn’t Olbermann a much more public face of the NFL than a minority owner of one of 32 teams?

    Perhaps the difference is that Olbermann’s show is only watched by his mother and Janeane Garofalo and not the millions who tune in to Rush each day. But it’s the content that should matter, not the size of the audience, right?

    What am I missing?

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Derrick, you made a clain of scrubbing, prove it.
    Odo, Hansons model was flawed. The AGT since 1998 has fallen. It was warmer on average in 2002 than in 2009, the year without summer for some. There is no such thing as settled science. The bar may be high, but he was slandered and if I read it corectly libeled here. Eric, are you like Chris Mathews in you get a tingle up your leg when Obama speaks? O’Reilly is far more far than you are.

  13. I think that you should take one of those pre-law courses at a CC before opining on first amendment issues again.

    My state only recently issued bonds for hundreds of millions of dollars to build new stadiums for the football teams in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. If the NFL is then going to start advocating particular political positions, this is essentially the state government indirectly financing their political advocacy.

  14. markm says:

    Actually, it’s funny how righties in general complain all the time about low-class athletes sullying sports, but suddenly are willing to allow an exception for Limbaugh.

    How would he sully the sport worse than it is?. I gave examples. Would him being a part owner increase the frequency?.

    Lame.

  15. floyd says:

    Ho-Hum…Looks like just another win for race baiting bullies against spineless sissies. No surprise.

  16. The comment threads are starting to remind me of sitcoms — it’s the same stories and the same characters over and over in a slightly different setting with different names.

  17. odograph says:

    His views on those issues have no bearing on his fitness to own an NFL team. Race, on the other hand, is a critical issue.

    Heh, when you said “made-up quotes” I thought you meant in general, about his rationality.

  18. Mark says:

    I’m sympathetic to Limbaugh here, in that he’s been smeared by made-up quotes and vilified for making perfectly reasonable and legitimate political arguments

    as my kids would say “what??”

    Limbaugh couldnt even hold down the job of NFL commentator without saying racist things. the same reason he was punted from this group of investors is the same reason he was punted from that job.

    he says racist things all the time. that is not in dispute. one google search would keep you busy for days.

  19. odograph says:

    Zelsdorf, name one developed nation on earth whose national academies of science has not recognized climate change.

    (They all have, and it is serious tinfoil hat territory when you make up a conspiracy that includes them all. Why would the British, New Zealand, and Japanese scientists agree? Because they are out to get the Republicans, of course!)

  20. Benedict says:

    Odograph –

    Zelsdorf, name one developed nation on earth whose national academies of science has not recognized climate change.

    You’re joking, right? Can you point to any time in the history of the planet when the climate HASN’T been changing? Does the Ice Age ring a bell? Face it; your hockey stick is broken and the facts keep getting in the way of your story (how is the new era of annual monster hurricanes working out for you? Or the the melting thickening ice sheets in Antarctica?) You should have know to give up the argument when you had to move from global cooling to global warming to climate change.

  21. odograph says:

    Benedict, to borrow a phrase, “You’re joking, right?”

    The phrase “climate change” has a concrete meaning in scientific circles. It is a short-hand.

  22. Benedict says:

    Odograph –

    I appreciate the brevity of your response. Perhaps you can explain in an equally concise way why the proponents of your point of view abandoned the phrase “global warming” – which would seem on its face to be a measurable, demonstrable phenomenon – and are now embracing the extraordinarily ambiguous (as demonstrated above) phrase “climate change”.

    To me “climate change” reeks of the same mindset which brought us the Obama regime’s “jobs created OR SAVED” phrase. Both are completely un-falsifiable and therefore should not be part of any scientific or statistical debate / discussion.

  23. Eric says:

    Is Olbermann NOT a “divisive” figure (to use the euphemism du jour)? Is Olbermann NOT despised by a huge chunk of the NFL’s audience?

    You’ve missed the point, Benedict. While I don’t agree that Olbermann is “divisive,” he’s certainly not offensive or bigoted. Where Limbaugh fails is that he is divisive, offensive, and bigoted. This is beyond dispute.

    Moreover, I find this quote by Stephen Taylor cited by James above to be decisive:

    The second business point I would make is that this is a case of pure capitalism at work: private owners making decisions concerning with whom they are willing to do business. Conservatives really have no ideological grounds to object if the NFL owners have found Limbaugh too controversial for their business tastes.

    I find it strange that the nut-right is screaming about the unfairness of it all when in fact this has been exactly what Taylor describes: private individuals deciding for themselves how they want their business run. What’s so wrong with that?

    Perhaps the difference is that Olbermann’s show is only watched by his mother and Janeane Garofalo and not the millions who tune in to Rush each day. But it’s the content that should matter, not the size of the audience, right?

    What am I missing?

    You missing your own point: it’s not the size of the audience, but the content that makes Limbaugh Limbaugh and Olbermann Olbermann.

    Eric, are you like Chris Mathews in you get a tingle up your leg when Obama speaks? O’Reilly is far more far than you are.

    I think that statement tells us a lot more about you than it does about me, Zelsy.

    (Odo: I like the way you draw out the profound ignorance of the global warming deniers, but let’s try to stay on topic.)

  24. PD Shaw says:

    zelsdorf, as I understand it the Rams agreement to stay in St. Louis is about to expire and one of the issues is going to be expensive updates to the stadium. That’s either going to be private capital, or as more frequently is the case, the ownership group is going to ask the city and state to pay. Since St. Louis is one of the more reliably Democratic-voting cities in the country, I don’t see the city giving any financial assistance to help out Rush. Since I don’t like this type of crony capitalism, I say “good.” A company that wants government hand outs should be liked by a majority of the taxpayers paying the rent.

  25. Benedict says:

    Eric wrote:

    While I don’t agree that Olbermann is “divisive,” he’s certainly not offensive or bigoted.

    Let’s see . . .

    On Tuesday night’s Hour of Spin, the infamous, deplorable Keith Olbermann did it again. In attacking Michelle Malkin, the new Edward R Murrow once more indulged his diseased psyche to unleash demeaning, personal invectives against women, referring to Ms Malkin as a “big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it”. This is what passes for journalism on today’s Peacock air. It has not gone unnoticed. Inside Cable News said “Yuck!” and noted:

    Um, what’s the difference between this attack and the “Ho-Pas” incident, which Olbermann subsequently apologized for even though he had nothing to do with that incident?

    Liberal blogger Tommy Christopher, writing at mediaite (a website run by MSNBC legal analyst Dan Abrams), was also taken aback:

    [Malkin] is not known for parsing her words, either. None of this, however, explains why Keith Olbermann would refer to her in such dehumanizing terms, even as he’s decrying that exact behavior.

    All this is nothing new. Olbermann’s Misogyny Hall of Shame has been adding exhibits for years:

    * Olbermann deplorably mistreated Suzy Kolber at ESPN driving her to tears
    * referred to Lindsay Lohan’s mother as a “bag”
    * smashed an Ann Coulter doll to pieces while cackling maniacally
    * made vulgar comments about “slut” Paris Hilton
    * demeaningly referred to Melana Trump and Nic Cage’s wife as “child brides”
    * obsessively stalked basketball player Rebecca Lobo
    * mocked Michelle Malkin’s ethnicity
    * said Sharon Stone is “old” and “past her prime”
    * called Ann Coulter a “horse” and made a vulgar reference to “Ann Coulter’s c###”
    * sneered that Angelina Jolie is “desperate” and “going for the ring”
    * said Hillary Clinton should be beaten to death
    * said of his colleague Rita Cosby: she’s “dumber than a suitcase of rocks”
    * laughed and joined in on a gross, creepy attack on Carrie Prejean

    Even Olbermann’s progressive allies recognize that there is a septic streak in Keith’s soul when it comes to the opposite sex. TomPaine.com summed it up well:

    So, to Keith Olbermann, who will be sternly moralizing into the camera for at least another four years, I have this to say: There is no excuse for how irresponsibly you are using your position of influence. The fact that you are a petty, disrespectful misogynist discredits you. You are not a progressive and you never will be, unless you drastically alter your attitude toward women. All of the brutally honest political criticism in the world does not make up for the shallow, sexist tripe you use to boost ratings. You, sir, are no Edward R. Murrow.

    Here is the link to the original blog post, which then has additional links to each of the stories mentioned. No, nothing offensive or bigoted there at all.

    Oh, and it’s not “global warming deniers”; it’s “climate change deniers”. Didn’t you get the memo?

  26. Technically, it’s not even global warming, but anthropogenic global warming (AGW) that is the supposed issue. Of course, anthropogenic climate change (ACC) doesn’t have the same ring to it and would confuse basketball fans up and down the East Coast. FWIW, climate change = weather. People used to say that everybody talked about the weather but no one ever does anything about it. Guess you have to be careful what you ask for.

  27. f says:

    Olbermann is even more offensive than that vile imitation of a humorist “The John Steward”(sic)
    But I would not care if they bought controlling interest in the NFL….
    Maybe they could get Micheal Vick and his dogs for the halftime show!!

  28. odograph says:

    You “climate change” guys are being pretty cute in your own right.

    Especially given that rather than asking me you could have read about it at the American National Academies:

    http://dels.nas.edu/climatechange/

    Or at the British Royal Society:

    http://royalsociety.org/landing.asp?id=1278

    Etc.

    (“weather”, what a buffoon.)

  29. G.A.Phillips says:

    Maybe Obama can do a hostile communist take over of the NFL like he does for everything else?!?!? Talk about a greedy bunch of corporations that **** over their union members!!!!! Share the billions, and the NFL ha!!! Government is the only way to regulate that kind of revenue, ****, the guys selling hot dogs work harder then the lazy bastards who play a game for a living!!!!!!