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A Fascinating Perspective on Rush Limbaugh, the NFL, and Race

Posted on October 13 2009 10:00 am
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Quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom Rush Limbaugh said was "overrated"

Quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom Rush Limbaugh said was "overrated"

In today’s NewsReal, Paul Cooper and Joseph Klein have offered some fine analyses of how the leftist media have willfully distorted Rush Limbaugh’s views about race. Those views have suddenly become newsworthy because of Rush’s current effort to purchase the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams, whose roster, like the rosters of NFL teams generally, is mostly black. Six years ago Rush was excoriated for his infamous on-air observation that the media were overrating the skills of then-Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb because of their own desire to see an African American dominate the quarterback position. At the time, high-profile leftists like Al Sharpton and Howard Dean called for Limbaugh to be fired immediately.

Less well known — in fact, scarcely known at all — is the fact that soon thereafter a white member of the print media made precisely the same points as Rush had made, yet unlike Rush, he was not smeared as some kind of narrow-minded racist who resented the success of a black athlete. The writer was Allen Barra, and his piece, titled “Rush Limbaugh Was Right,”  appeared in Slate — hardly an organ of conservative thought. The article is well worth a read, even six years later. Some of Barra’s money quotes include the following:

“… In his notorious ESPN comments last Sunday night, Rush Limbaugh said he never thought the Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb was ‘that good of a quarterback.’

“If Limbaugh were a more astute analyst, he would have been even harsher and said, ‘Donovan McNabb is barely a mediocre quarterback.’ But other than that, Limbaugh pretty much spoke the truth. Limbaugh lost his job for saying in public what many football fans and analysts have been saying privately for the past couple of seasons….

“In terms of performance, many NFL quarterbacks should be ranked ahead of McNabb. But McNabb has represented something special to all of us since he started his first game in the NFL, and we all know what that is.

“Limbaugh is being excoriated for making race an issue in the NFL. This is hypocrisy. I don’t know of a football writer who didn’t regard the dearth of black NFL quarterbacks as one of the most important issues in the late ’80s and early ’90s…. So far, no black quarterback has been able to dominate a league in which the majority of the players are black. To pretend that many of us didn’t want McNabb to be the best quarterback in the NFL because he’s black is absurd. To say that we shouldn’t root for a quarterback to win because he’s black is every bit as nonsensical as to say that we shouldn’t have rooted for Jackie Robinson to succeed because he was black….

“[I]t is equally absurd to say that the sports media haven’t overrated Donovan McNabb because he’s black. I’m sorry to have to say it; he is the quarterback for a team I root for. Instead of calling him overrated, I wish I could be admiring his Super Bowl rings. But the truth is that I and a great many other sportswriters have chosen for the past few years to see McNabb as a better player than he has been because we want him to be.

“Rush Limbaugh didn’t say Donovan McNabb was a bad quarterback because he is black. He said that the media have overrated McNabb because he is black, and Limbaugh is right. He didn’t say anything that he shouldn’t have said, and in fact he said things that other commentators should have been saying for some time now. I should have said them myself. I mean, if they didn’t hire Rush Limbaugh to say things like this, what did they hire him for? To talk about the prevent defense?”

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