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Analysis: Limbaugh’s words keep him from a NFL dream

Associated Press | 10/21/2009, 5:03 a.m.

Rush Limbaugh getting axed from a group trying to buy an NFL team was bigger than Rush Limbaugh.

The conservative radio provocateur said it himself.

“This is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have,” Limbaugh said Wednesday, shortly before his bid to become a limited partner in the St. Louis Rams was terminated.

By that standard, the decision to dump Limbaugh says that in today’s America, regardless of wealth or fame, divisive racial rhetoric can place some things out of reach.

“This reflects where we’re moving in an ethical nature,” said Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for Sports and Society at Northeastern University.

“The league has 78 percent African-American players,” Lebowitz said. “Do you bring in someone who has made racist statements to own a team that’s largely made up of players the owner has made slurring statements about?”

The decision to exclude Limbaugh was made Wednesday by a group led by Dave Checketts, chairman of the St. Louis Blues, that is trying to keep the Rams in town. It came after concerns were raised by players, their union, civil rights activists, at least one NFL owner and the commissioner of the country’s most popular sports league.

All franchise sales must be approved by 24 of the NFL’s 32 teams — an ownership group that is overwhelmingly white, conservative and focused on the bottom line, which could have suffered if fans or advertisers were angered by Limbaugh.

“There’s an argument that says the very principles Rush espouses —the free market — are what did him in,” said the conservative radio host Michael Smerconish. “This IS the free market. These are private businessmen who made a decision about what was in the best business interest of their thriving venture.”

“It’s definitely ironic. There’s a bit of hypocrisy here as well,” Smerconish said, citing a study that showed 70 percent of NFL owners’ political contributions went to Republicans. “Through their dollars they are very supportive of the sort of politics that Rush talks.”

Said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was a loud voice of opposition to Limbaugh’s bid: “It’s remarkable in that he was denied by other powerful whites. At the end of the day, his own peers said, ‘You are a liability.’ Even the rich and powerful do not want to be identified with racism.”

Limbaugh insists that he is not racist, and that comments such as one from a 2007 transcript on his Web site — “The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it” — have been twisted by his liberal critics, and sometimes flat-out fabricated.

Two of the racist quotes recently attributed to Limbaugh, which praised slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray, may have been falsified and then magnified in the media echo chamber.

The quotes were published in a 2006 book by Jack Huberman, “101 People Who Are Really Screwing America.” Asked Thursday for the source of the quotes, Huberman said he had no comment. His publisher, Nation Books, also declined to comment.