Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rush flushed

Given the backlash, Rush Limbaugh being dropped as a potential investor in purchasing the NFL’s St. Louis Rams should come as no shock. Even though the sale process was in the very early stages, there were clear indications that the consortium led by Dave Checketts (with Limbaugh holding only a minority stake) would have had a difficult time receiving 75% approval from the other NFL owners.

But in a classic example of why sports writers should stick to writing about sports, writer Mike Florio totally misses the point and in some cases is flat out wrong in his analysis.

We continue to anticipate the launch of Rush Limbaugh's Thursday radio show, during which he'll surely blame the decision to drop Limbaugh from the group that is attempting to buy the St. Louis Rams on Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the media, and possibly anything and everything but the forces of the free market that Limbaugh otherwise embraces.

(In this regard, we're not saying that Limbaugh doesn't have legitimate grips with Sharpton, Jackson, and/or the media. But the reality here is that the decision of the NFL not to do business with Limbaugh reflects a prime example of a business determining its own course without government intervention.)

Sure, Limbaugh could disagree with the reasoning the NFL owners might use to deny his exclusion from buying in to an NFL team, but he wouldn’t denigrate the vetting process itself. Rush appreciates and understands business and free enterprise, even if Florio doesn’t. But the problem here is the quotes attributed to Rush (i.e. “slavery had its merits” or “the NAACP should practice robberies”) that were the likely catalysts in his removal from the investment group. Said quotes appear to be totally and utterly fabricated since no audio evidence has been produced (Rush is a radio guy for crying out loud. Shouldn’t be that tough to prove). The media, Sharpton, Jackson, et al are all free to object to Limbaugh’s attempts at buying in to the Rams. But to use information that hasn’t a scintilla of truth would completely fly in the face of the “free market” process to which Florio refers. Besides, libel and slander are still against the law, last time I checked.

But we also hope that Rush will reconcile Checketts' characterization of Limbaugh's intended role in the ownership group with Limbaugh's statement from last week confirming his involvement in the effort.

Specifically, Limbaugh said that he and Checketts would operate the team.

In a statement confirming that Limbaugh had been dropped like a freshly-polished limbo pole, Checketts painted a far different picture.

"Rush was to be a limited partner -- as such, he would have had no say in the direction of the club or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations," Checketts said. "This was a role he enthusiastically embraced."

The two versions can't be much different…

If Florio were a field goal kicker, he’d be “wide left” on that attempt. Truth be told, Checkett’s quote that was cited is in line with the Rush’s first public statement regarding the issue. On his radio program on October 7, Limbaugh said he was “part of a group with Dave Checketts that has put in a bid on the St. Louis Rams. And that’s all I can say. And that’s true. ” The key word there is group. Notice that Rush never said he would be involved in the day-to-day operations of the team or be a “co-owner”. Lest we forget, Limbaugh still runs the most popular radio talk show in America. He certainly doesn’t have the time to engage in both endeavors. To me, it went without saying that Limbaugh’s role with the Rams was always intended to be as a minority investor.

….and we're beginning to believe even more strongly that this was indeed a publicity stunt, and that it has achieved exactly what Limbaugh intended.

So he can now hammer away at his real and perceived enemies. And maybe, just maybe, he'll be able to persuade any of the remaining folks who have no opinion about him that he has been screwed.

Again, any investment group with Limbaugh’s inclusion might have been rejected by the NFL, even without the slanderous rhetoric attached to Rush. Fair enough. But this entire one-week circus had little to do with buying an NFL franchise and much more to do with the blatant attempts of those with their own skeletons to assassinate a man’s character. And it also gave sports scribes like Florio an opportunity to sit at the grown up’s table and delve into issues that transcend sports. Bravo!


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