Rush to Judgement
By John D. Turner
3 Oct 2003

“I think the sum total of all you are saying is, that Donovan McNabb is regressing . . . He's going backwards. And my, I'm sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we have here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well, of black coaches and quarterbacks doing well, and I think that there is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't really deserve. . . . . The defense carried this team."

Thus spake Rush Limbaugh on 28 Sep 2003 on the Sunday NFL Countdown, a sports program carried on ESPN. It was, as it turns out, an unfortunate choice of words. This Wednesday, Rush stepped down from his position at ESPN, one which he had recently characterized as “the dream of a lifetime”.

There has been a lot of hoopla focused on this statement in the media, most of it trying to paint Rush as a racist. Of course, this is nothing new; liberals have been calling him a racist for years now. Talk to a lot of people who have never even listened to his nationally syndicated radio show (or at least won’t admit to having listened to it), and the one thing they will be quick to assure you (other than Limbaugh is a nut, a moron, or an imbecile) is that he is a racist. This is pretty much accepted by many as unvarnished fact.

I have listened to Rush quite a bit, though not in recent years, as my work hours pretty much preclude it. I do not believe Rush to be a racist. Nor do I see anything racist in his remark above. It appears to me that he is stating his opinion that McNabb is overrated; that there is an element in the media that has a tendency to portray black quarterbacks in a better light, to cut them more slack as it were, than they do white quarterbacks. Presumably this is because even though the racial composition of the NFL is about 80% black, the majority of quarterbacks are white.

Is this the case? I don’t know. I really don’t follow football. I used to follow the Dallas Cowboys until “America’s Team” became composed of athletes that I really didn’t want my kids emulating as role models. That pretty much goes for most figures in the world of sports. We have pretty exacting standards of behavior in our family, and the majority of sports figures in this country simply don’t fit those standards. Not saying they are evil, or going to hell, just that their lifestyles are not ones we want our children to copy. About the only sports team we watch on a regular basis is the San Antonio Spurs.

That having been said, I really can’t comment on whether or not McNabb is over rated. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. The problem I have is the knee-jerk reaction to have Rush fired for stating his opinion. That’s what he was hired for, wasn’t it? To state his opinion? As good as he may be on his talk show, he is, after all, nothing more than a talented amateur when it comes to sports. He may love the game, and follow it avidly, but that describes many fans across America. As actual qualifications go, he has never played the game professionally, as have the other regulars on the show, who were presumably hired for their expertise on that basis.

Of course, just because one has actually played the game doesn’t necessarily make one any more of an expert, except for when it comes to such things as how it actually feels to be tackled, or what goes on in your head while you are on the field.

This is all beside the point anyway. Opinions are opinions. Even the over-the-hill jocks hired by ESPN to expound on things Football are, after all, expressing their opinions. Their pronouncements are not holy writ from on high. Being a “professional” doesn’t always make you right. Weathermen are professionals too, and how often are they wrong? Of course, this really isn’t about whether Rush is right or wrong, it is about what he said.

All the fuss over the comment Rush made, and the strident cries for his dismissal makes me wonder if he isn’t somewhat close to the mark. If the person he were criticizing were a white quarterback, would anyone care? Myself, I could care less either way. In my mind, a person can either do a job, or they can’t. I don’t care about their race, religion, sex, or national origin. My question is, can they do the job.

Rush didn’t say McNabb was a bad quarterback. Or that he couldn’t perform. Or that blacks shouldn’t be a quarterbacks. He merely stated his opinion that he was over rated. And he then went on further to state his opinion on why this was. That is where he made his big mistake. If he hadn’t expounded on why he thought that, he probably would have been ok. After all, he isn’t the first person in the sports world to make that comment about McNabb this season.

But Rush is a political commentator, not a sports commentator. (The people at ESPN had to know that when they hired him, didn’t they?) The first part of his statement, his opinion that McNabb is overrated, was his (amateur) sports opinion. The second was his professional political opinion. Being as that is what Rush does for a living, one could no more expect him not to offer such an opinion than one could expect a fish to not breathe water. But was it a racist comment? I think it would be a stretch to construe it as such, despite the fact that many have made such a stretch.

Is Rush a racist? I would say no. Walter Williams is a regular guest host on his show when he is away. Last I checked, Walter Williams is black. In fact, his “motto” if you will, on Rush’s show when he hosts it is “Black by popular demand”. Thomas Sowell gets favorable press on his show, as does Condolezza Rice. They are both black. Rush has referred to Steve McNair as the best quarterback in the NFL. McNair is both black and, “gasp”, a quarterback!

He doesn’t particularly care for Jesse Jackson. But that has nothing to do with his skin color, and everything to do with his politics. I don’t care for Jesse myself. Or the Reverend Al Sharpton. I consider both of them to be racists. But if Condolezza Rice were running for President, I would vote for her in a heartbeat! Ditto Alan Keys. In fact, I had Alan Keys for President posters prominently displayed in my front yard and in my windows during the last Presidential election.

If this had been a liberal this had happened to (of course, the topic would have had to be different), he or she would probably be complaining right now about how their “freedom of speech” had been abridged. Or the “chilling effect” this would have on other sports announcer’s and what they might say in the future. Of course, Rush is not a liberal, and it is pretty much the liberals who are after his hide, demonstrating of course, that such arguments are only valid if one’s opinions are politically correct. If you are a conservative, all bets are off.

Of course, Rush realizes what the Libs never do in cases like this. Freedom of Speech doesn’t imply freedom from repercussion. You can say what you want, and the Constitution guarantees that the Federal Government won’t throw you in jail because of what you said. It doesn’t however guarantee that there won’t be negative results from your actions. This is a lesson the Dixie Chicks obviously still fail to understand. Rush understands it fully. He has stepped down from his position at ESPN (it’s better to quit voluntarily than to be fired after all, given the choice), and you don’t hear him complaining about how “unfair” it is, and how his “rights” have been stomped on. Rush had his say, and now those with an agenda have had theirs. ESPN, always conscious of ratings, have weighed Rush in the balance and found him wanting.

In the final analysis, this whole flap isn’t even really about what Rush said. It is about Rush himself. It is no secret that there are many on the Left who would like nothing more than to see Rush twisting in the breeze. Not only is he diametrically opposed to most of the things they hold dear, but he is very effective in getting his message across. On his home turf, behind the golden EIB microphone, he is pretty much untouchable. He is in control of the situation there, and his millions of fans, pumping the ratings of the show, ensure that he will be back on the air the next day. On ESPN, the audience is different, he has no control, and he is completely vulnerable. It was only a matter of time before he said something the Left could seize upon; if it hadn’t been last week, then it would have been the next. Or the one after that.

I think what Rush has demonstrated here is that once again, Rush is right. And while I don’t agree with everything he says, I find much of what he says to be pretty much on the mark. What Rush has demonstrated is that there are things on which you cannot comment in America. It simply isn’t permitted. If you are white (and conservative), you simply cannot comment on anything having to do with race, regardless what it is, or whether you are correct or not. If you do, you are automatically a racist. Period, end of story. If you are in the public eye, you may as well go home. Stick a fork in yourself, you are done. Keep your opinions to yourself if you value your job.

He has said this on his radio show many times. Too bad he didn’t take his own advice.