Limbaugh and the NFL
Rev. Al Sharpton
In 1902, a man by the name of Charles Follis, became the first documented African American pro football player as a member of the Shelby Athletic Club. Despite a few sprinklings of color here and there, the NFL banned Black athletes from the popular sport during the ’30s. Ironically, when the NFL reintegrated in 1946, it was the then Los Angeles Rams that were the first team to hire Black players Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. Luckily, other teams followed suit and today these professional football teams are comprised of a majority of Black athletes–more than 65%. And it is here, in this most unifying game that divisive Rush Limbaugh and his antiquated vitriol attempted to gain entry. I’m proud to say that the world responded instantaneously and forcefully with a resounding ‘NO’.
Prior to his mediocre rise in talk radio, Missouri native Limbaugh was an avid football fan who played in high school and eventually landed a gig on ESPN’s ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ in 2003. But only a month into the job, he resigned after stating that Philadelphia Eagle’s quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a Black player succeed. As if those blatantly untrue and biased words weren’t regressive enough, the staunch conservative openly stated in 2007 that ‘the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.’
A game between the Bloods and the Crips … now … let’s process that for a second. What else could Mr. Limbaugh be referring to than race and stereotypes with a statement such as that? Was he suggesting that the NFL is now overly Black? Did he imply that all Black men belong to a gang and come from the streets? Was he saying that Black folks are constantly wielding weapons and are violent? What, other than these offensive, inaccurate suggestions could Limbaugh have meant when he uttered those words??
It’s literally unfathomable that the man who made these statements against NFL athletes would think that he deserved a chance to hold stake in one of its teams. That a radio talk show host notorious for his openly offensive remarks against Blacks, Latinos, other minorities and progressives would want to partake in a sport that epitomizes integration and unity.
I commend the executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, for quickly urging players to speak out against Limbaugh’s attempt to gain partial ownership of the St. Louis Rams. I commend each and every athlete that put his career on the line to voice an opinion on this troubling matter. And I also commend SPC Worldwide Chairman Dave Checketts, who is leading the bid to purchase the Rams, for his recognition that Limbaugh indeed poses a problem for the NFL, for its players and for fans across the country who would like to move past the days of division that he embodies.
History has taught us that activism is a necessity for any society to right its wrongs and excel to the next level. Whenever or wherever we see injustice, it is our duty as human beings to stand up and end detrimental behavior before it happens if possible. Rush Limbaugh’s dangerous rhetoric has polarized this nation on a plethora of issues for years. His actions have placed him on the extreme fringe of our population, and the NFL has no room for such a person.
Luckily I, along with many others, took immediate action to voice our concern over Limbaugh, and held him accountable for his troubling track record. But let us not dwell on what almost happened, but let us instead focus on what did happen: swift pressure yielded near instant results, a massive wrong was eliminated before it fully transpired and activism once again prevailed.
Now let’s apply the same diligence and involvement in every aspect of life.