[Web Special] Race, Teamwork, and the Rams

Thursday, October 15, 2009 - 08:02 AM

There were two incidents in my football playing days that I thought of when I heard Rush Limbaugh was part of a group vying for ownership of the St. Louis Rams. One happened to me in high school, and the other in college.

It was a late fall game where Sidney High School was playing Walton. We were on the comeback and our coach, Mike Brazee, came into the huddle to tell us he would kiss the goal line if we punched it in. Our center was a guy that was openly hostile to me – I was the only black player on the team, maybe even the only black player in our Class C league of teams located in the foothills of the Catskills, in upstate New York. Our center was not only hostile: he was racist. In that moment, though, when the coach looked to me to punch the ball through the goal line, I recall him turning to me. In that instant there was nothing between us but camaraderie, teamwork and, dare I say: brotherhood. Football had brought us together. We had finally gotten on the same page, looked past our animosity and the racial barrier and saw one another as humans. (...continue reading)

That was the same message the NFL Players' Union had for the NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goddell in a letter yesterday, opposing the sale of the St. Louis Rams to Limbaugh's group:

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, commented that “sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends. Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred."

Rush Limbaugh’s record is exactly the opposite of that.

Limbaugh's own site references a show from January 2007, during which Limbaugh said, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."

And of course, here is the famous quote from 2003, in which Limbaugh seemed to have personal emnity with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb: (Limbaugh later resigned from ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown over this remark.)

"The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in (Donovan) McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve."

The other incident, from my college days, revolves around an off-field incident. The University of Rhode Island basketball team was on the rise, with players like retired NBA guard Cuttino Mobley, Tyson Wheeler, and current NBA Champion and LA Laker Lamar Odom. At a March Madness preseason event televised on ESPN, a incident in the stands threatened to mar the day. I will not go into specifics – suffice to say it was ugly – but cooler heads eventually prevailed. The people responsible for causing the overtly racial disturbance were targeted by numerous campus activists, demanding they be removed from the school. I was serving as the VP of the Student Senate at the time and playing as a linebacker on the football team; I called upon other student athletes to come to our aid, to help give this issue some much-needed media exposure. Most of the other high-profile athletes backed away. Today, though, athletes are speaking up about the potential sale of the Rams.

That is what makes this "Rush, the Racist Radio Jock turned NFL owner" conversation so interesting: some NFL players are stepping up and saying something political. Gasp! We have all been long-accustomed to athletes being apolitical. Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka recently declared himself:

"All I know is from the last comment I heard, he said in [President] Obama's America, white kids are getting beat up on the bus while black kids are chanting 'right on,'" Kiwanuka recently said in the New York Daily News. "I mean, I don't want anything to do with a team that he has any part of. He can do whatever he wants; it is a free country. But if it goes through, I can tell you where I am not going to play."

Rush will undoubtedly use this as a chance to show the “liberal” media is against him. In this instance you can add some linebackers, a defensive end, the NFL players union and scores of others throughout the nation.

Other commentators have correctly pointed out that Limbaugh is not all that different from other members of NFL owners' old-boy’s club, but none of them are so vocal about their opinions – none of them have a singular voice that moves masses. Another reality is that 65-70 percent of the players are in the NFL are black – their opinion matters, too.

Like that hostile center and I connecting when we saw one another not as black and white but as teammates, and back in Rhode Island when Lamar Odom stepped out of the shadows of the other marquee players and decided to join myself and the president of the student senate on the podium, speaking out against racism and discrimination of all kinds – we learn, time and time again, that sports have the ability to transform us. They have the ability to bring out the best in us, they allow us to be move psychological mountains. The University of Rhode Island eventually suspended the people responsible. Sidney, the small working class town in upstate New York, prevailed in that football game, and Coach Brazee kissed that goal line ... but only after we came together as a team.

Rush Limbaugh makes mountains of money. His multi-millions come, in my humble opinion, from peddling hatred and fear to the masses. Those tainted millions are dollars the NFL simply should learn how to go on without, because if players are expected to be role models - so should the owners.


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Comments [36]


It appears now that we are seeing the Limbaugh/NFL storyline trail off the screen of The Takeaway and NPR.

In short, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin accused Rush Limbaugh of being a racist. That accusation went mostly unquestioned, except, it appears, by me. To date, no one at The Takeaway, and no responsible editor for any of the writers who made similar accusations against Limbaugh, have answered the question, "On what basis to you make the racism accusation?" Still, the anti-Limbaugh Left curiously seems to take the overall story as a victory. They managed to shout Limbaugh down, the facts be damned, so all is well.

Now, we have this searing commentary from Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution:


Oct. 20 2009 10:24 AM

Here, Rebecca. Here's Ibrahim on the quotes in this piece: "...Quotes used were from reliable media outlets - Washington Post, Daily News, and we edited out one quote that was not credible..." [See above.] Nothing about made-up non-existent "scare quotes." Ibrahim's explanation was worse than nothing at all. But aside from the minor dispute over quotation marks, there's the extremely serious dispute over Abdul-Matin's assertion that Rush Limbaugh is a racist. And for that, he, and the Takeaway, and WNYC Radio, and PRI, and NPR, have a lot to answer for. As far as I am concerned, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is in the same category as Bryan Burwell, Drew Sharp, Michael Wilbon and a number of other major-paper sportswriters who threw their standards out the window when they unearthed the now-infamous fictional quotes to create some phony documentation of Rush Limbaugh's purported "racism."

Oct. 17 2009 04:48 PM

Yes, Rebecca, I am aware of the meaning and context with "scare quotes." And yes, I agree with you that in all liklihood, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin was engaging in "scare quote" usage in this case. I challenged him on that, and it is interesting to me that he didn't simply describe his usage the same way that you did. I think you have now defended Abdul-Matin better than he defended himself. Indeed, Abdul-Matin took it to another level of curious inexplicability when he, in his own comment above, appeared to defend his use of quotes as having been carefully sourced. So yes, this was a use of "scare quotes." And, I'd say, when you start calling people racists, the dubious use of "scare quotes" is no way to conduct serious journalism.

Oct. 17 2009 04:29 PM

Wow, I don't know who this Charles fellow is, but evidently he has a lot of time on his hands and nothing better to do than troll the Takeaway comments.

For the benefit of Charles and any other grammatically challenged readers: the use of quotation marks to indicate that words are quoted from another source is ONLY ONE of the many standard uses of quotation marks. The quotation marks around "Rush, the Racist Radio Jock turned NFL owner" are what is known as "scare quotes,"* used as follows:

"[M]aterial in scare quotes may represent the writer's concise (but possibly misleading) paraphrasing, characterization, or intentional renaming of statements, concepts, or terms used by a third party. This may be an expression of sarcasm or incredulity. Or it may be a rhetorical technique attempting to frame a discussion in the writer's desired terms: a circumlocution or a means of apophasis or innuendo."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scare_quotes#Usage

Oct. 16 2009 09:28 AM

Charles, you're talking to yourself here. Get over it, move on.

Oct. 16 2009 05:40 AM

The Post-Dispatch editor's note is here:


Oct. 15 2009 05:41 PM

I expect that it was merely a matter of good fortune on the part of Abdul-Matin, that he did not go so far as Rick Sanchez of CNN, Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, or Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, and actually rely on and regurgitate the phony and unsubstantiated quotes in which Limbaugh allegedly displayed his racism. (All that Abdul-Matin do, was to blandly assert that Limbaugh is a racist. He therefore gets a B+ for deniability, but a D for effort.) The Post-Dispatch is now "investigating" the matter of fabricated Limbaugh quotes:


Oct. 15 2009 05:38 PM
dropthe chip

Spend ten years listening to Rush and then you can call him what you want instead of parroting quotes out of context. This writer is a joke. Rush is forever promoting getting ahead NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE. He's no racist, but he people carrying on this debate certainaly are including this writer, in my opinion. I was there for teh McNabb dear (not quoting it out of context) and it wasnt about race. Why dont you sobs talk about something you actually know about.

Oct. 15 2009 02:43 PM

And there's more with Keith Olbermann. Olbermann actually does have a semi-formal relationship with the NFL, insofar as he is a Sunday Night Football co-host for 'regular NBC.' Now, it might shock the NPR listenership, but I find Olbermann to be as much of a partisan political bomb-thrower, as do some of you think about Rush Limbaugh. And yet there's no outcry about Keith Olbermann. Apparently, for Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, and for the NFL Players Association, and NBC, and for the NPR world at large, a left-wing partisan is an okay part of the NFL (see, e.g., DeMaurice Smith, Jim Irsay, etc.), but a conservative partisan, even if the conservative is nothing more than a minority stakeholder, is abhorrent.
This story really does expose The Takeaway and NPR for what it is; America's favorite liberal echo-chamber.

Oct. 15 2009 12:57 PM

It's impossible to leave this subject without an epilogue as to the interesting position of left-wing commentator Keith Olbermann in all of this. Of course, before he became a hit-man anchor for MoveOn/MSNBC, Olbermann was a rather funny anchor for ESPN. He has no actual sports experience (Limbaugh actually worked in sports, in public relations for the KC Royals), but Olbermann is a smart guy and clever with words.
Olbermann apparently has taken the position that the NFL owners are in a particularly bad position to pose moral and ethical litmus tests for franchise ownership and NFL participation. Of course, Olbermann is smart to take that position. The list of hypocrisies exposed in any attempt to ban Rush Limbaugh would be monumental.

Oct. 15 2009 12:55 PM

This program and its hosts apparently like to boil stories down to tiny little "Takeaway" sound bites. So here's a Takeaway for you: The NFL Players Association apparently feels that Michael Vick, fresh out of a federal penitentiary for a crime involving vicious cruelty, is morally suitable for the NFL, but Rush Limbaugh, conservative commentator, isn't. This is the ultimate in criminalizing an opposing political point of view.

Oct. 15 2009 11:10 AM

wow how many therapists does "Charles" need?

I'm not giving you an audience charlie dude. Go do your own research on Limbaugh's sorry record.

Time to ride these haters out of town

Oct. 13 2009 05:44 PM

Fatima, I just find it very surprising that allegations of "racism" can be tossed around so lightly and casually, with such little care for facts.
If I were to call a public figure a "tax cheat," or a "wife beater" or a "pedophile" or a "perjurer," I think that I'd want to be very, very careful. I place the allegation of "racism" in that same category. But here we quite obviously have Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, on the nation's public radio network, calling Rush Limbaugh a "racist," without hesitation, without qualification, and without any relevant (or provable) detail.

Oct. 13 2009 03:15 PM

Mr. Abdul-Matin; It may be that Jim Irsay enjoys the chance to take a shot at Rush Limbaugh. If so, that would be the least surprising sentiment from one of the farthest-outlier NFL owners. I suppose one of the many differences between Jim Irsay and Rush Limbaugh is that Rush earned all of his money; he didn't inherit a franchise from his daddy. And, Rush has no plans to move the St. Louis Rams, in the middle of the night, to a new city.


Oct. 13 2009 02:40 PM

Hey Charles, if Limbaugh unhinges the Left, i LOVE how Abdul-Matin unhinges YOU.

Oct. 13 2009 02:33 PM

Interesting addendum to this conversation:


Colts owner Jim Irsay said today he would not consider voting to approve Rush Limbaugh if the talk-show host is successful in his bid to buy the St. Louis Rams.

"I myself couldn't even think of voting for him," Irsay told PFT's Tom Curran at the NFL's owners meetings in Boston.

Oct. 13 2009 02:24 PM

Lastly, Joanie asks, "3. What's it going to take to have the NFL players be more involved in the dictating of their careers that comes from the executive offices to which they have little access?" The median NFL player slary is about a million dollars a year. NFL careers are short, but the union-negotiated retirement benfits are very good considering the short playing career of the average player. They have a strong union and a strong collective bargaining agreement. (An agreement, incidentally, that would be breached by individual players deciding that they don't want to play for a Limbaugh-owned team.) Hundreds of thousands of young men want to play in the NFL; only a tiny fraction have the competitive skills to qualify. Each player who does qualify usually has an agent, and a team representative to the NFLPA. Virtually all of them also had an opportunity to attend, on a full-ride scholarship, a major university. Are these the "slaves" that another listener referred to?

Oct. 13 2009 02:21 PM

Next, "Joanie" asks, "2. Why on earth would he want to buy a franchise?" That one is much easier, Joanie. Rush Limbaugh would probably like to run the franchise effectively and successfully, have some fun doing it, and later sell his share of the franchise for a profit. I have to ask Joanie; was that supposed to be a hard question?

Oct. 13 2009 02:08 PM

You gotta love the questions posed by listener "Joanie," because they are such an honest insight into the NPR audience.

Joanie first asks, "1. Why does Rush Limbaugh even have enough money to buy something as large as an NFL franchise?" Joanie might not realize that Rush Limbaough hosts one of the most popular radio programs in the history of the medium. He makes hundreds of millions of dollars, because his audience, and sponsors, love him. Unlike NPR, Rush Limbaugh's program pays for itself. Perhaps Joanie would prefer a government that would confiscate all of Rush's earned income. Presumably, based upon his political views. To keep the airwaves safe, I suppose, for more public radio stations.

Oct. 13 2009 02:05 PM

As for me... No, I don't work for Rush Limbaugh, and I have never had the pleasure of meeting him. Of course, that doesn't stop the NPR faithful from this sort of allegation, either: "man you are passionate about hatred." Charming. As for the matter of "personal interest" in this controversy, what I pointed out, as a matter of fact, was that the Executive Director of the NFLPA is indeed a partisan and a major one at that. There's no more "Inside Washington Democrat-Party Politics" than to be a lawyer-lobbyist for Hale Boggs. Dee Smith is a maxed-out personal donor to the Obama Campaign. He's a Kerry donor, and an Eleanor Holmes-Norton donor.

Oct. 13 2009 01:41 PM

Whoa; somebody explain this to me: "Hey Charles, that quote, 'Rush, the Racist Radio Jock turned NFL owner,' is from a sports contributor and writer who is credibly employed by a national network.
Who? We're talking about a quote here. It was Mr. Abdul-Matin's quote. And he didn't attribute the quote. Even after I specifically questioned the quote (a direct allegation of "racism," no less) we still don't know who crafted the phrase, where it was uttered, why Ibrahim Abdul-Matin utilized the quote, and what the basis is for a charge of "racism" against Mr. Limbaugh. Perhaps it is because Mr. Limbaugh so thoroughly unhinges the Left, but I can think of few things that exposes the naked biases of NPR and its audience quite like the Rush Limbaugh radio program.

Oct. 13 2009 01:36 PM

Hey Charles, one question for you, are you a Rush Limbaugh staffer? How much does he pay you? Because man you are passionate about hatred.

Oct. 13 2009 01:20 PM
David Wall Rice

Mr. Abdul-Martin, the thoughtful perspective is appreciated. The whole situation of Rush being a potential "owner" is simplistically reducible to the imagery of slave owner to chattel, an echo that persists with respect the owner/player in much of American sport. Certainly those hard lines are present here, but your unpacking of it all allows for more nuance, complication and depth. A good read.

Oct. 13 2009 12:43 PM

Hey Charles, that quote, "Rush, the Racist Radio Jock turned NFL owner," is from a sports contributor and writer who is credibly employed by a national network. The only non credible quotes in this piece are the ones by Rush Limbaugh - he is after all a coked up addict who's resigned and fired from various gigs.

Oct. 13 2009 12:11 PM

I think this is a very important piece to bring to light 3 things:
1. Why does Rush Limbaugh even have enough money to buy something as large as an NFL franchise?
2. Why on earth would he want to buy a franchise?
3. What's it going to take to have the NFL players be more involved in the dictating of their careers that comes from the executive offices to which they have little access?

Oct. 13 2009 12:05 PM

I Googled the quotation, "Rush, the Racist Radio Jock turned NFL owner."

There is only one source. This commentary on The Takeaway.
You say you only used quotes from reliable media outlets. The exception, apparently, was the quote you used from, uh, yourself.

You really don't get it, do you? Csaual allegations of a public figure's being a "racist" don't cut it anymore! You expect people to just simply overlook such allegations? You don't expect anger in the face of baseless allegations of "racism"?

Oct. 13 2009 11:57 AM

Charles, actually we were the Rhode Island Rams, it happens to be in the title. The media and our democracy consist of myriads of opinions over concerns that generally those opinionating have no control over. Relax. Quotes used were from reliable media outlets - Washington Post, Daily News, and we edited out one quote that was not credible. Of course, and always, thank you for sharing your opinions

Oct. 13 2009 11:43 AM

No, Karim, it isn't so simple.

The basic fact is that one thing happened; the thing was that Dee Smith, the NFLPA Executive Director, took it upon himself to write to Commissioner Goodell.

Why? Why did Smith do that? Was it because the NFLPA voted on the issue? No.

Was it because all the team reps had a meeting or a teleconference and decided to do it? I don't think so, but we don't really know. Nobody has reported such a thing; if that had happeend, I trust we'd have heard about it.

Or was the letter written because Smith, a Democrat loyalist, an Obama and Kerry donor and a fromer Democrat lobbyist, just wanted to do it?

Oct. 13 2009 11:34 AM

One more thing: the NFL Players Union represents... the players in the NFL! woah! If the union is against something that means the players are against it. Simple.

Oct. 13 2009 11:21 AM

I'll tell you something Charlie boy - I wouldn't work for someone who was on the record disrespecting me. And the players are not saying they have a veto - they are simply stating their position, which they have a right to do.

Oct. 13 2009 11:20 AM

Charles, why are you so angry? I mean, is it really necessary to insult the URI mascot!? C'mon! Perhaps you might do better engaging the substance of the critique. I mean, is it really reasonable to expect players to work for someone who is on the record disrespecting them?

Oct. 13 2009 11:17 AM

By the way, if the NFL players suddenly decide who they want to play for based on personal politics, they might want to check their collective bargaining agreement. I don't think that there's a provision that gives the Players Association a veto on franchise ownership. Of course, the players who dislike Rush Limbaugh (and we don't know much about who exactly that might be, because Abdul-Matin didn't report it) could always play in Canada, or perhaps the Arena Football League.

Oct. 13 2009 11:14 AM

Finally, some more substance.

This was crap reporting by Mr. Abdul-Matin. The real story, had he done the minimal work to report it, is that no NFL player-vote was held with regard to any Rush Limbaugh issue(s). The real story is that one guy, a major-Democrat-donor-and-former-lawyer-lobbyist was behind the NFL Players Association letter/press release. DeMaurice Smith (not a football player) is the Exectuive Director (read: paid mouthpiece) for the NFLPA. He sent the letter to Commissioner Goodell. Himself. Wow. What a surprise. A major donor to Obama and Kerry, and a lobbyist from Hale Boggs, opposes Rush Limbaugh. You know, there might be a story there. Fat chance that NPR would cover it. Instead, we get one headline after another, falsely claiming that "NFL Players Oppose Limbaugh." Which is more or less a lie.

Oct. 13 2009 11:13 AM

Agreed: For a league that prides itself on sportsmanship and racial equality, Limbaugh money is blood money which should have no place in sports.

Oct. 13 2009 11:11 AM

Then there's the witless comment that Rush Limbaugh's "multi-millions come, in [Martin's] humble opinion, from peddling hatred and fear to the masses. Those tainted millions are dollars the NFL simply should learn how to go on without, because if players are expected to be role models - so should the owners."

That's some "humble" opinion, bro! It amounts to the criminalization of a political point of view. This would be a new low in NPR's reckless history of political bias, except that it just isn't. This is more or less commonplace recklessness for NPR programming.

Oct. 13 2009 11:10 AM

Thanks, Takeaway, for nothing. I learned absolutely nothing from this story by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, other than the fact that it gave him the 19th opportunity to tell us that he played linebacker for the, uh, mighty Rhode Island... Whatevers. (What ARE the Rhode Island footballers called? I'm thinking that it isn't Gators, Wolverines or Buckeyes.)

Anyway, on to the substance of this miserable commentary. How did "Rush the Racist Radio Jock turned NFL Owner" get into quotes, in the manner written by Abdul-Matin? I am presuming that this libelous characterization is from Mr. Abdul-Matin himself, only. It is not a quaote from any other recognized source, and has not other basis in popular reporting or literature, as far as I know. Does the Takeaway adhere to any sort of style manual or rules on the creation of phony quotations?

Oct. 13 2009 11:07 AM

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