NFL Got It Wrong But Rush Got What He Deserved

Citing past “divisive“comments by Rush Limbaugh, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell effectively squashed the conservative talkshow host’s bid to buy the St. Louis Rams today.

Rush Limbaugh Keith Olbermann

(NFL: majority of you think Limbaugh is racist, Olbermann isn’t) 

Anyone outside of Limbaugh’s most devoted followers will allow that Goodell’s “divisive” was really a euphemism for “racist,” with the former employed in an attempt to avoid alienating Limbaugh’s millions of NFL-product-consuming worshippers.

Is NFL right, majority of pro football fans think Limbaugh is a racist?

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At the very least, it’s not unreasonable to observe Limbaugh as a polarizing figure in the world of politics. But if Goodell is going to eliminate Limbaugh from formally associating with the NFL, what about a current, NFL-affiliated person well-known in the world of bipolar political exploration - Keith Olbermann (Co-host, NBC’s Sunday Night Football In America studio show.)

Rush Limbaugh

(NFL rebuke: most genuinely embarrassing moment of Limbaugh’s public life)

Like Limbaugh, Olbermann often manufactures conflict with “divisive” political commentary on MSNBC. But for the benefit of those of you who don’t understand why the NFL treats them dissimilarly …

… Goodell thinks the majority of NFL fans believe Limbaugh is a racist, and having him associated with the league is bad for business.

… Goodell thinks the majority of NFL fans believe Olbermann is not a racist, and having him associated with the league is good for business.

Notice I didn’t say I thought Goodell himself thinks Limbaugh or Olbermann is or isn’t a racist. I would never guess at his personal beliefs. But I do have a pretty good idea why he decided to exclude Limbaugh from the ownership suite: cooly-executed analysis of public perception - and how that affects NFL revenue.

Unlike MLB ownership, which is run like a private club more concerned with maintaining petty control over personalities than fiscal pragmatism, the NFL’s leading lights have only concerned themselves with the personal when it affected the public.

Morality only as it pertains to monetary.

I really like Goodell, and I do think he’s different from the clammy, calculative nature of predecessor Paul Tagliabue. I saw that first hand this summer when I spent an evening with the Commish in Derek Jeter’s private suite at Yankee Stadium. There were only eight of us that night and Goodell was every bit the regular guy he comes off as in public.

As an aside, I can’t say the same for Bill O’Reilly, who barged in on the proceedings that night expressly to rib (good-naturedly) Goodell about legal problems plaguing the league’s players. O’Reilly, in a relaxed setting (no-over-the shoulder cell phone cameras) still came off as dude trying too hard. Goodell? He’s the guy yelling across the box if anyone wants an Amstel as he smuggles more dip outta the fridge.

Though in his treatment of Limbaugh today, it was a mistake for Goodell to eliminate an upstanding member of our society’s right to try to buy into an NFL team. Limbaugh didn’t get to his position in life by being a dummy, and I actually think he would’ve been a terrific owner who would’ve treated his players like gold. I really do.

White, black, purple, whatever. Limbaugh knows he wouldn’t be able to win without black players. It’s absurd to think that he would not go out of his way to reach out to black players to make sure they knew he supported them.

All you have to do to know that is listen to Limbaugh’s show. It isn’t real. It’s a theatrical production in which he’s playing to his audience. He’s doing what it takes to capture listeners. And no one in the history of the medium has ever been as successful as he has in giving people what they want. Do you really think he wouldn’t be smart enough to know that he’d have to provide all his players a supportive working  environment?

Goodell’s rebuke is especially ironic because Limbaugh has been such an (unsolicited) supporter of the NFL over the years - providing the league millions in free publicity on his show. Framed against the questionable character and conduct of too many NFL owners, reading Goodell’s comments today almost elicited a chuckle. I don’t know how most well-meaning souls can come to any other conclusion than there’s at least a hint of hypocrisy in the pronouncement.

Though I suppose it was inevitable that something like this would happen to Limbaugh. Making hundreds of millions of dollars fomenting artificial conflict which does nothing but divide otherwise amiable Americans does not come without consequences.

Unlike the off-air hypocrises which somehow served to redouble the devotion of his massive audience, Limbaugh doesn’t get a do-over on this one. Money and fame will never erase this public embarrassment - despite his inevitable, eternal denials.

Goodell’s remarks today scarred Limbaugh personally probably more than anything that has every been said about him. His love for the NFL, if you’ve ever heard him speak about the league, was perhaps the only thing genuine he’s ever consistently represented on his show. Almost childlike.

One of the few (the only?) enterprises for which Limbaugh has a genuine affection caused him, besides perhaps the stolen pharma fiasco, the most significant public embarrassment he’s suffered.

The NFL got it wrong.

Funny how things work out.