By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
When Rush Limbaugh's bid to buy the St. Louis Rams falls incomplete, he and the Ditto Heads will undoubtedly blame some number of their favorite targets: the liberal media, the angry blacks, the Democrats, the Obama administration. And he'll probably miss or ignore the main obstacle to his joining the NFL owners' huddle: The free market.
Here's how we know that Rush won't be the Rams' next owner: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday weighed in on the Rush ownership issue and didn't exactly sound welcoming. Asked about the growing player opposition to the potential St. Louis Limbaughs, Goodell brought up Limbaugh's old comments about Donovan McNabb—that the Eagles quarterback benefited from a media that wanted to be nice to a black quarterback—and said he disagreed with them, "very strongly." Goodell's comments weren't political: He has given $9,300 to Republicans this decade and $4,000 to Democrats, as well as $5,000 to the NFL's PAC, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
But here's Goodell's key comment, which came when asked how he would feel if a current NFL owner made Limbaugh-esque comments:
"We're all held to a high standard here and divisive comments are not what the NFL's all about," said 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's not the statement of a political ideologue. It's the statement of a businessman who understands that his bottom line is the bottom line. Higher standard? Divisive comments? It's about the image of his business, and divisive comments cost money. As I've opined before, sports fans don't like their teams painted in political hues of red and blue.
Goodell's Limbaugh Heisman follows more explicitly negative comments from various players and their union chief. And the commissioner was in turn followed by Colts Owner Jim Irsay ($47,850 given to Democrats in the last dozen years, but only $19,250 to Republicans and of course the obligatory $5,000 to the NFL's PAC), who said that he would not vote in favor of approving Limbaugh as an owner. Irsay may lean left, but as I wrote yesterday, the NFL as a whole leans right.
But NFL owner Rush Limbaugh? Owning the Rams would be his night job, second to spending his days spewing polarizing nonsense across the airwaves.
Limbaugh has made great heaps of money being a political entertainer, enough money to buy an NFL team. But political entertainment and sports entertainment don't mix—that would be bad business. And that's not ideological, it's just the free market.
Limbaugh's Rams bid? Wide right.
Update: The folks over at ProFootballTalk.com have been tracking the Limbaugh/Rams issue closely and report that Rush has vowed to fight on in the face of Goodell's brush-off. They go on to make a good point:
Any effort by Limbaugh to challenge the disparate treatment arising from the application of business judgment is not the product of conservative thought.
It's a concept that typically is pushed by liberals.