Limbaugh Signs Off

Oct. 3, 2003, midnight | By Vivek Chellappa | 17 years, 3 months ago

ESPN's controversial decision already backfired

In just the fourth week of a young NFL season, political-hardliner and new football commentator Rush Limbaugh already made comments many fans feared he would make. Limbaugh's racist comments towards Philadelphia Eagles star Donovan McNabb only cost him a job, but his thoughtless words will hurt ESPN and professional football.

It wasn't difficult to take offense with his comments. During the ESPN NFL pregame show, Hall of Fame-bound, Steven Young, questioned quarterback Donovan McNabb's ability to run the Philadelphia offense. Limbaugh cut in, expressing his sentiments about the success of McNabb.

"I think the sum of what you're all saying is that Donavan McNabb is regressing, he's going backward," Limbaugh said. "Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go."

Point made. However, Limbaugh, as anyone who has listened to his radio show should know, didn't stop there.

"The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. 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 deserve. The defense carried this team."

There isn't a shoe in the world that could fill his mouth. Not since Limbaugh told an African-American caller on his radio show to "take that bone out of your nose and call me back," has he offended so many people at the same time. Also in his portfolio of racism is the following: "[African-Americans are] 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?"

The point is that Rush Limbaugh has a history of questionable comments. The decision to hire Limbaugh by ESPN reflected the decision to bypass ethics in order to attract Limbaugh's huge fan base. If it weren't for Limbaugh's quick resignation, all hell would have broken loose.

The near-immaculate slate of ESPN was tarnished by Limbaugh's comments. The number of viewers Limbaugh may have brought would have been irrelevant had some of the scheduled boycotts begun. The Reverend Al Sharpton had already called for a boycott of ABC, and two presidential candidates, Wesley Clark and Howard Dean, called for Limbaugh's removal.

"I'm going to call for ESPN to terminate Rush Limbaugh as we've seen other networks terminate people for racist remarks in the past," Sharpton threatened. "I'm shocked that we're at Wednesday and we have not seen an apology from Mr. Limbaugh. We cannot sit back in silence. That would be consent and we would have lost self-respect."

In an era when the Detroit Lions were fined $200,000 for not interviewing a minority candidate, Limbaugh's comments were particularly distasteful. McNabb's performance over the last three years has been nothing short of incredible; McNabb has been able to carry an average offensive team to success.

Thankfully, for ESPN's sake, fellow commentator Tom Jackson admirably rose to McNabb's defense, voicing many of the opinions of many listeners. He shot back at Limbaugh, "somebody went to those championship games, somebody went to those Pro Bowls, somebody made those plays that I saw, running down the field, doing it with his legs, doing it with his arm. He has been a very effective quarterback for this football team over the last two or three years."

McNabb is aware that he until last week, he had not been performing to his usual level. "I know I played badly the first two games," he said. However, McNabb himself seemed amazed more than anything that such a comment would be said at all. "It's somewhat shocking to hear that on national TV from him," McNabb said Wed, Oct 1. "It's not something that I can sit here and say won't bother me." McNabb answered press questions with obvious restraint. Teammates were not so kind.

Eagles defensive end N.D. Kalu pointed out that "[Limbaugh] speaks well, he's well-read, but he's an idiot."

Limbaugh himself has still offered no apologies.

"This is such a mountain out of a molehill," he said before he resigned. "There's no racism here, there's no racist intent whatsoever. "All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," Limbaugh continued on his radio show. "If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community. There's no racism here. There's no racist intent whatsoever."

Even as Limbaugh resigned by releasing a statement, he still admitted no fault.
"My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated," Limbaugh said in a statement. "I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret.

ESPN's response to this disaster will be scrutinized by the entire country. Who they hire to fill Limbaugh's shoes, and how they publicly address the issue will greatly dictate the future success of the network.

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Vivek Chellappa. As Vivek beings his final year in Blair, several new hobbies draw his attention: his passion for standup comedy and making lists with only one real piece of information. Vivek has recently developed a strong liking for the works of Mitch Hedberg, Dave Chapelle and … More »

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