Rush Limbaugh had a funny feeling not everybody would be keen on him buying an NFL team.
Along with his sharp tongue, conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh has proved to have a pretty accurate crystal ball. He told TODAY that critics would come out of the woodwork to slam his bid to buy football’s St. Louis Rams, and sure enough, they have.
The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, along with the head of the National Football League’s players union, came out swinging Monday against Limbaugh’s quest to become new co-owner of the beleaguered Rams football franchise in Limbaugh’s native Missouri.
Sharpton requested a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss what he calls “a myriad of reasons as to why [Limbaugh] should not be given an opportunity” to become the team’s owner. Jackson agreed that Limbaugh “should not have the privilege of owning an NFL franchise.”
And NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith exhorted players to oppose Limbaugh’s bid, citing anti-union views the radio commentator has espoused on his nationally syndicated show.
‘They’re gonna go nuts’
None of this comes as a surprise to the 58-year-old Limbaugh. During an interview with national correspondent Jamie Gangel that aired Monday and continues Tuesday on TODAY, Limbaugh predicted the knives would come out.
“They’re gonna go nuts,” Limbaugh said of his detractors. “This is the kind of stuff they’ve been trying to make sure doesn’t happen with me. All this stuff is the mainstreaming of Rush Limbaugh from off this far-right fringe they’ve tried to put me [in]. I just keep tiptoeing into the mainstream. And it just irritates them.”
Limbaugh resigned from a 2003 stint as football commentator for ESPN after just two short months as anger built over his comment that a black Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was overrated because “the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”
Limbaugh fanned the flames with the NFL again in 2007 when he said on his radio show, “The NFL too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
While the Rams aren’t officially up for sale, the team’s majority owners, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, have retained the services of investment banking firm Goldman Sachs to investigate the possibility of selling off the team. The Rams, who moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1994, won a Super Bowl in 2000, but have since fallen on hard times: The team has lost 15 games in a row, dating back to last season.
Limbaugh and Dave Checketts, owner of the St. Louis Blues hockey team, lead a consortium aiming to buy the Rams, whose value has been placed between $700 million and $750 million.
‘I love football’
Limbaugh told TODAY owning an NFL franchise would be a dream come true for him.
“I love football, I love being close to it,” he told TODAY’s Gangel. “Every year my love for the National Football League grows, for football as a game grows. And, I mean, what a fun thing to do — to have a chance to own part of one?”
Limbaugh remains defiant of critics who say he got what he deserved in getting axed from ESPN for his comment about football player Donovan McNabb and black quarterbacks. He told TODAY, “I said exactly what I meant, and if you want me to, I’ll say it again.” He said it was political correctness, not widespread outrage, that led to his being out.
In fact, Limbaugh told Gangel his employers, ESPN, initially licked their chops over the controversy. “I got a call after that [saying], ‘Oh, man, is this not great? Can you imagine our ratings on Sunday?’ ” Limbaugh says “nobody was unhappy at all” until the Philadelphia media began hammering at him, and 17-year ESPN veteran Tom Jackson, an ex-NFL pro who is African-American, issued an ultimatum: “It’s either me or Limbaugh.”
McNabb, the man at the center of the 2003 controversy, was asked about the prospect of Limbaugh’s owning the St. Louis Rams. He replied, “If he’s rewarded to buy them, congratulations to him. But I won’t be in St. Louis anytime soon.”
Union head Smith said he’s asking the league’s players to embrace their roles “as partners in the business of the NFL” to rally against Limbaugh’s bid, saying, “We will not risk going backward, giving up, giving in or lying down to it.”