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

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

But the record shows Limbaugh also was forced to resign from ESPN’s Sunday night football broadcast in 2003 after saying of the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb: “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.”

Harry Edwards, a sociologist who studies black athletes and has consulted for several pro teams, said Limbaugh’s failed effort to become an NFL owner shows how American society regulates itself.

“The system works,” he said. “We are far from what we were 20 years ago or 30 years ago or 40 years ago. We have an African American family in the White House.”

“Does that mean we don’t have intense countercurrents of racist sentiments in American society? Absolutely not. But we are moving in the right direction and managing those hot spots and flare-ups such as the Limbaugh bid that America has to manage to continue its momentum.”

Pro football has largely overcome its own difficult racial past, which included desegregation of the league from 1934-46 and longtime barriers that kept blacks out of the quarterback and head coaching positions.

“The NFL has been a model for America’s democracy and growth,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was a college quarterback at North Carolina AandT. “The playing field is even, the rules are public, the goals are clear, the referees are fair. That’s America at its best.”

That history probably played a role in keeping Limbaugh out, said Alexander Wolff, a Sports Illustrated writer and author of a recent article on Kenny Washington, who broke the NFL color barrier in 1946.

“Because it’s been such a painful journey for the NFL, and the end of that journey has come so very recently, there’s a really heightened consciousness,” he said.

“They have come to terms, to a great extent, with their history.”

Editor’s Note: Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press.

Associated Press Researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

(Associated Press)