There's some controversy today about comments made by Rush Limbaugh last Sunday on ESPN (he has a Sunday gig there on their football show) about Donovan McNabb -- quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles -- being portrayed by the sports media as better than he really is. Why would the sports media do so? Limbaugh thinks the answer is McNabb's skin color: he's black. The (sports) media, Limbaugh is arguing, wants McNabb to be a great quarterback -- even if he isn't great -- simply because he's black, and they want to champion great, black quarterbacks.
Now, Limbaugh might be all washed up on this, but it's hardly a racist statement, as many have been saying (see this AP story), with Democrat presidential contenders Wes Clark and Howard Dean -- along with the NAACP and others -- calling for Rush's termination from ESPN.
With Chris Berman -- host of the ESPN show -- I didn't see Limbaugh's comments as racist, and apparently, neither did Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson, two black panelists also on the show.
Here's part of Rush's take on the whole thing (I'm posting it in case the links change tomorrow):
- Quotes from Rush on McNabb
October 1, 2003
"This thing is alive and kicking today because the Philadelphia sports media and the newspapers decided to kick it up. There was no immediate reaction among fans or viewers that I heard of. We had no phone calls here about it."
"My point was that it would be a shame if these black assistant coaches ended up being used as pawns simply to keep the league out of court. I was very sympathetic to the black head coach premise and black assistant coaches in the league. Nobody commented about that. Nobody reacted to it at all - and nobody puts it in context with this McNabb business."
"If the sports media are going to get upset with me for saying that their desire for black quarterbacks to do well might influence their opinion and coverage of McNabb, I'll take it back and say, 'Okay, you're not interested in black quarterbacks doing well.'"
"My comment was actually a comment aimed at the media, not even at McNabb. It's not by any stretch of the imagination a putdown. It doesn't say McNabb is bad."
"It's clear that many of the people writing about this story have no real experience listening to this radio program and probably haven't even heard some of the other things that I have said on this ESPN show. My essay in the first week of this ESPN show came to the defense of black coaches in the NFL."
"I'm not the one that's even introduced race in this, if you want to know the truth. You can go back. You can read Philadelphia sports media last year, the year before, and you can see that guys have been writing about the great things that Donovan McNabb's success means in a racial context."
"What is it when the sportswriters automatically and in unison, in lockstep, agree with Martha Burk when she makes her claim about Augusta National? Is that not political when these liberal sportswriters demand that Augusta change its private membership policy and admit women?"
"Liberal sportswriters have pushed the notion that it's unfair that there haven't been more black quarterbacks, and I agree with that. I have simply said that their desire for McNabb to do well has caused them to rate him a little higher than perhaps he actually is."
"This was a discussion on what's wrong with the Eagles and what's wrong with McNabb. And from that, why, you would think that I had gone back and wished for the South to have been successful and everything that goes along with that. I mean, it's literally incredible."
"I was comparing McNabb's reputation on the field to his reputation in the media. The media has portrayed Donovan McNabb as a great quarterback, and they have credited him almost exclusively with the Eagles' success, and I've always thought that there were more components to the Eagles' success than just the quarterback."
"At one point we didn't have enough black quarterbacks. Well, now there are quite a number of black quarterbacks and it's my opinion that the sports media, being liberals just like liberal media is elsewhere, have a desire that black quarterbacks excel and do very well so that their claims that blacks are being denied opportunity can be validated."
"I guess if you listen to the elitist liberal sports media, I nor anybody else who hasn't been somehow close to the game or played it or whatever, shouldn't be on a program where these items are discussed."
"Fans are often wrong. Everybody disagrees with everybody when it comes to opinions expressed about practically everything, including sports."
"If anybody is entering politics into this, it's the sportswriters, not me. I have studiously avoided it because I know people are laying in wait for it."
"You know, the critics here have a little bit to explain themselves. I think they have some questions to answer. Who is entitled to speak about these things on the media or privately or publicly? Who decides that? What is the criteria for determining somebody's value or worth in this regard?"
"These are the people who claim to be the most tolerant among us. This is the compassionate left who claim to have the biggest hearts and the biggest degree of understanding, but they're the ones who are the least tolerant."
"You think I'm all wet on this. So what? I'm all wet. In your mind, I'm all wet. I'm wrong. Whoopee-doo! You know, why not leave it at that? People who think I'm wrong, think I'm wrong. But it's gone way beyond that."
"They can make all the references to the race of athletes and what it means to the community and what it means to the black population of the country and how many kids look up to them. They can do it all day long, but nobody else can."
"My point Sunday on ESPN was that the defense of the Eagles, I think, deserves a lot of the credit for this team's success. It's a sports opinion, for crying out loud - and I think it's an accurate one."
"For those of you, by the way, who are saying, 'Rush, what were you thinking?' I thought about this the night before. I weighed it, I balanced it, but you know what I decided? Look, they brought me in to be who I am. This is what I think. It's a sports issue. It's a sports opinion."
"This is not by any stretch of the imagination the end of the world. None of this stuff is. To start balancing and weighing what I say versus the political correctness requirements that are out there? Why, I don't do that here so why should I do it anywhere else? Let the chips fall."
"You know, this is such a mountain made out of a molehill. So much needs to be said here. I guess at the top of the list would be that we supposedly have freedom of speech in this country, but if you don't say what people who consider themselves the Arbiters of What Can Be Said agree with, then they want to come after you with everything they've got and try to humiliate you and take a stab at your reputation and otherwise get your mind right."
Maybe you aren't a Limbaugh fan -- I tend to agree with his policy stances, but rarely listen to him these days -- but you have to admit that there is no racist intention in what he's saying.