Limbaugh must take bad with good

Dan Wetzel

Cole: Limbaugh's act won't work in NFL

Rush Limbaugh made his money in the business of divisive politics. He's one of the most successful modern-day pundits, and as he found bigger audiences the more entrenched and outspoken he became.

It's an honest living. No crimes committed, no rivers polluted, no official power at all. If the other side just ignored him rather than playing into his hands, he'd have been marginalized a long time ago.

The money – enough to become a potential part owner of the St. Louis Rams – didn't come without baggage, though.

Making a fortune through division will ultimately divide Limbaugh right out of the NFL.

Apparently, the deal is all but done. Enough owners have privately told Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole that they will not support Limbaugh's ownership bid. At least one, Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay, has publicly expressed his opposition.

"I can't vote for that," Irsay said. "[His] comments are insensitive and inappropriate. I wouldn't feel comfortable in voting for him."

So a group of almost exclusively white, almost exclusively conservative men – many of whom no doubt share Limbaugh's political views and even listen to his radio program – are turning their back on the host.

He and his supporters can cry about bias and political correctness run amok. They can scream about the Constitution. They can bemoan double standards.

The fact is you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Limbaugh made his money through his words. Now those words are denying him a business opportunity in a league that prides itself on inclusion.

"We're all held to a high standard here and divisive comments are not what the NFL's all about," said league commissioner Roger Goodell. "I would not want to see those kind of comments from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, no. Absolutely not."

That the commissioner said anything on this issue is telling. Goodell knows which way the wind blows and he isn't going to take a stand that strong against a potential owner unless he knows Limbaugh is never going to be an owner.

"At this point in time we'll continue our process, which is to allow the Rams to decide if they're going to sell and who they'll sell to," Goodell said. "And then at some point, the NFL will be engaged and we'll [look into] whatever ownership group is put forth through our process."

In other words, no chance, Rush.

The NFL is a private organization and, as some of Limbaugh's followers would surely agree, they mostly have the right to choose who they do or don't allow to join the club.

Legally, there is little room for debate. The NHL, for instance, has twice rejected ownership bids of billionaire Jim Balsillie because they don't like his plan on moving teams to Canada and, quite frankly, they just don't like him personally.

The NHL even purchased the Phoenix Coyotes itself, for about $100 million less than Balsillie offered, just to keep him out. Balsillie sued but a federal court in Arizona ruled in the league's favor.

So Limbaugh doesn't appear have much leverage here.

It's been pathetic to see all the opportunistic political demagogues on all sides come out on the cable scream-fest "news" channels. (Is a potential minority owner of a lousy NFL team really a pressing issue in America?)


Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh is part of a group interested in owning the St. Louis Rams.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

It's allowed both sides to cloud the situation with their own hackneyed "gotcha" agendas. Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton should try to help the downtrodden rather than score cheap publicity. Anyone who attributed inflammatory quotes to Limbaugh that he never said should pay the consequences.

Yet Limbaugh's supporters can do a lot better than cry about how he was unfairly beaten down by political correctness.

Limbaugh would be best served manning up and acknowledging how he made his money. The whining bit isn't becoming of anyone. He doesn't have to apologize for it, but he has to admit words have consequences.

They can make you rich beyond belief. They can create adoring audiences. They can bring untold fame.

They also can rally opposition and create lasting hard feelings. He knows his success comes from those who disagree with him as much as those who nod at his every word.

The good comes with the bad. It's intellectually bankrupt to think otherwise.

After a decade-plus of bashing it, I don't think the NCAA would hire me as its president. It's part of the business.

You can't shout into a radio microphone and then pretend the statements reside in a vacuum. When you're in the opinion business, people's opinion of you matter. You can't expect your reputation in one industry not to follow you into another. Oil men don't just walk in and become the director of the Sierra Club.

The best part about pro sports is its ability to bring entire regions of the country together regardless of race, religion, gender, politics and socio-economic background. Virtually nothing else unifies communities like the NFL.

Everyone in St. Louis (or beyond) can root for the Rams. They can all believe it's their team. They can watch the games as a diversion from things like partisan politics and self-serving debates.

Rush Limbaugh can, too.

It's just that a bunch of conservative businessmen, most of whom think just like him, aren't going to let him join their little club. To them, how he made his money is as important as how much he made.