Rush Limbaugh’s interest in buying the NFL’s St. Louis Rams has riled both the NFL Players executive director and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, both of whom want the league to think twice before accepting the conservative radio host’s offer.
In a letter written to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Sharpton requests a meeting to urge the blocking of any potential bid by Limbaugh, stating it would be bad for the league.
In the letter, Rev. Sharpton also praises NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith for publicly asking that the league seek to unify, not divide, by rejecting any bid by Limbaugh. In an e-mail to the union’s executive committee on Saturday, Smith said specifically of Limbaugh’s bid, “I’ve spoken to the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] and I understand that this ownership consideration is in the early stages. But 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.”
Limbaugh and St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts are among six potential ownership groups that have discussed buying the Rams. League sources tell ESPN.com the current sale price has ranged from $700-to-$750 million but that there did not appear to be an imminent transaction.
Limbaugh shot back at Sharpton on his radio show. “Now, this saddens me as well this disappoints me,” he said. “I know Rev. Sharpton. Sharpton is better than this. He knows better than this. You know, I didn’t judge Al Sharpton’s fitness to be in radio when he wanted to earn an honest living for once, given his well-documented past as the author of the Tawana Brawley hoax. I believe in freedom and I also don’t discriminate.”
In 2003, Limbaugh worked briefly on ESPN’s NFL pregame show. He resigned after saying Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb(notes) was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.
Transcripts posted on the radio host’s Web site also say that on a January 2007 show, Limbaugh commented: “The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
Asked about Limbaugh’s bid to purchase the winless Rams, McNabb said: “If he’s rewarded to buy them, congratulations to him. But I won’t be in St. Louis any time soon.”
Speaking of which, at least seven NFL players have publicly opposed Limbaugh’s interest in purchasing the Rams with Checketts. In Smith’s communication Saturday with his executive committee, the union leader encouraged players to speak their mind on all matters, including Limbaugh’s bid.
“I have asked our players to embrace their roles not only in the game of football but also as players and partners in the business of the NFL,” said Smith in the e-mail. “They risk everything to play this game, they understand that risk and they live with that risk and its consequences for the rest of their life. We also know that there is an ugly part of history and we will not risk going backwards, giving up, giving in or lying down to it.
“Our men are strong and proud sons, fathers, spouses and I am proud when they stand up, understand this is their profession and speak with candor and blunt honesty about how they feel.”