Rush Limbaugh Dropped from Rams Bid Team
Missouri 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.”