I can’t recall being more disappointed. Seeing Rush Limbaugh resign over what was controversial, but socially useful, commentary on ESPN dampens most hope I had that the conversation on race in this country will improve any time soon.
The conversation on race in this nation, in a word, stinks. Led by race hustlers like Al Sharpton, Johnnie Cochran, and Jesse “It’s Selma All Over Again” Jackson, the Civil Rights Movement has become incapable of carrying on a sensible dialogue over the racial issues of the day. Instead, we get unsubstantiated charges of racism, indignant protests, and extortion of corporate America.
Limbaugh’s remarks were controversial not because they were wrong, but because they likely exposed a double standard in the sports media. The media has been so eager to see the emergence of a great African-American quarterback that they perhaps hype the accomplishments of a player like Donovan McNabb. Surely, Rush’s remark that McNabb “had not been that good all along” is debatable; McNabb has steered the Philadelphia Eagles to two consecutive NFC championship games. But there can be little debate that quarterbacks like McNabb are treated differently by the press. It is evident in all the overwrought concern about the early season struggles of McNabb. Did Brian Griese’s failure in Denver or Jake Plummer’s in Arizona prompt the same concern as Donovan McNabb’s possible failure in Philadelphia? Indeed, the hype over McNabb’s previous success generates inordinate hyperventilating after only a few bad games this season.
This double standard can have consequences, some of them quite serious. Fans are led to believe that every new African-American quarterback will become the next Joe Montana or John Elway, and feel tremendous disappointment when they do not. Hyped expectations of African-American quarterbacks make the failures seem all the more spectacular, and spectacular failures only feed the stereotype that blacks can’t QB. Finally, such expectations probably increase the failure rate of African-American QBs: Given how much of the game is mental, a young quarterback new to the NFL should not have to deal with the pressure of the next great gridiron general. Because of the damage it can do, such a double standard needs to be discussed and debated openly. That’s why Rush’s remarks were so essential.
I had hoped that Limbaugh would show up on ESPN this coming Sunday and address the controversy in his commentary portion of the show. I fully expected him to not back down, to confront the issue head on, and declare that the controversy represents all that is wrong with the race issue in American today. Instead, he took the “path of least resistance.”
Now the race hustlers and their enablers in the media have Limbaugh’s scalp. It is a very prized trophy indeed. If their carping can prompt the resignation of a conservative powerhouse like Limbaugh, how will lesser commentators fare in the future? Less open and honest dialogue on race in sports will lead to misguided policies in professional sports. Indeed, it already has. Due to threats from Johnnie Cochran, the NFL instituted a policy that teams must interview an African-American for their head coaching jobs. It has resulted in African-Americans coaches being treated as tokens. Encouraged by Limbaugh’s resignation, the race hustlers will surely be demanding more.
Rush later claimed that he resigned because his fellow cast members on the show were feeling the heat. (I’m also worried that it has something to do with yesterday’s drug allegation — and I’m praying that it doesn’t.) Nevertheless, resigning was the wrong thing to do. Given a chance to carry the race conversation to the end zone, Rush fumbled the ball.
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