Who killed Limbaugh's NFL dreams? Obama, of course

The right sees the administration's influence in the campaign against the radio host's attempt to buy the Rams


Alex Koppelman
October 17, 2009 3:15AM (UTC)

You might think that, given the near-unanimous opposition around the NFL to the idea of having Rush Limbaugh as part owner of one of its football teams, conservatives wouldn't be trying to find a way to blame the whole thing on some malicious maneuvering by President Obama.

You would, of course, be wrong.

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Sure, conservatives have been angry about Limbaugh's failed bid, but this latest theme is fairly new, and pretty far out there. In short, what people like American Thinker's Joseph Ashby are pointing out is that DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL players' union, used to work for Attorney General Eric Holder, and that he also served on the Obama transition team. That's true -- but here's where Ashby takes this, based on Smith's having come out publicly against the idea of Limbaugh being part of a team ownership group:

Smith’s gross conflict of interest and apparent political targeting of Obama’s top foe is a huge story. Unfortunately the media appears too blinded by their prejudice of Limbaugh to report on it.

To summarize, we know that a former Obama official and political ally -- who was chosen by the NFLPA specifically for his political clout and connections to the highest rungs of power in government -- directly attacked Limbaugh for the radio-talker’s political commentary.

Historically politicians have been prone to vindictive and petty behavior, but never in American history has someone had so much power to pummel his political opponents as President Obama. With control over banks, insurance companies, car companies, media (sports media included) and unions (like the NFL players union), Obama tentacles seem to penetrate into nearly every corner of the nation.

Limbaugh, too, has apparently made a charge like this. And Glenn Reynolds, who as Instapundit is one of the more influential bloggers on the right, linked to Ashby's post, and added this, an e-mail he received from a reader:

BTW this is a big, big deal, and something Nixon ( or maybe Gene Talmadge or George Wallace in his heyday.) would have done. The difference is the press wouldn't have played along then. Not because it was wrong. The press could care less about that (Go look up Walter Duranty), but because Nixon wasn't a Democrat. It's all about power with the press... their power. You get in between them and it, heaven help you.

This is, frankly, sort of amazing. Forget the amount of disbelief you have to suspend in order to believe that the Obama White House would, for no other reason than political retribution, direct an ally to torpedo Limbaugh's participation in the effort to buy the St. Louis Rams. Forget that Smith was hardly the only NFL figure to come out against Limbaugh; players did that too, as did the owner of the Indianapolis Colts and even Roger Goodell, the league's commissioner.

No, what's most incredible is the way in which people supposedly devoted to free-market principles forget basic rules of capitalism when convenient, and imput everything to political bias against them. What's the simplest reason for Smith to have opposed Limbaugh's part in the bid? How about his own economic self-interest?

The players' union head has only been in his job for a little while, and he was a total outsider when he was elected to the post; by the time he spoke out, some of his players had already done so. He has an interest in keeping them all happy in order to keep his job. Beyond that, the NFL and the union are headed for a serious labor battle next year -- there's just no way Smith wants a new ownership group that's likely to have a strongly anti-labor viewpoint entering the picture right now. That's especially true because of the microphone Limbaugh has, the ability he'd have to sway public opinion in the owners' favor.

On a somewhat different subject, but still worth examining for other reasons, is a piece on the American Spectator's Web site. In it, writer Jeffrey Lord, an aide in the Reagan White House, also went after Smith, crying racism -- against Limbaugh -- at every turn in a particularly nasty way. Lord wrote:

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[T]he dirty little secret of the NFL seems to be that it is in the charge of people caring less about football than left-wing politics and all the implicitly racial and intolerant ideas that have been the vivid hallmark of the progressive movement and the Democratic Party from its inception in slavery days. Right down to the notion of which blacks will remain on the intellectual plantation in return for a PR pat on the head...

So what does Mr. Smith do in his real life when he isn't busy juggling the massive conflict of interest that is using the facade of football to zap one of the leading opponents of Mr. Obama, the man to whom Smith has channeled $3,300?

Lord also wrote, of sports writer Kevin Blackistone of FanHouse.com, "Bull Connor would love this guy."

That's Bull Connor, the infamous public safety commissioner in Birmingham, Ala., who used police dogs and fire hoses on peaceful civil rights marchers. What did Blackistone (whom Lord referred to as "Black Kev") do to deserve this? Why, he wrote, "If the league accepted whatever bid the group including Limbaugh puts up, it would be a slap in the face to at least two-thirds of its players, and that is selling short the other third. The two-thirds I am referring to are the NFL players who are black. The other third are players of every other hue."

If you can figure out how someone like Connor, who turned police dogs on defenseless children in an attempt to defend segregation, would "love" that quote, well, you're a more imaginative person than I.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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