Hypocrisy reigns in NFL’s Limbaugh rebuff

OK, so I get why National Football League honchos derailed Rush Limbaugh’s bid to become part owner of the St. Louis Rams.

And then again, I don’t.

Limbaugh, on his Web site, indicated he didn’t succeed because of remarks he made about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, the media and the NFL several years ago. Others have said that Limbaugh’s bid was denied because of other “racist” remarks.

Columnist George E. Curry, former editor of the now-defunct Emerge magazine, wrote a recent piece taking to task Fox network commentator Juan Williams and National Black Republican Association Chairwoman Frances Rice for defending Limbaugh against charges of racism. According to Curry, Williams and Rice are upset about two statements allegedly attributed to Limbaugh that no one has proved he ever uttered.

The first goes like this: “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back, I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

The second one is this gem guaranteed to win whomever uttered it the never-coveted Adolf Hitler Brotherhood Award: “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray.”

Ray was the convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now back to Limbaugh or, more specifically, Curry on Limbaugh: Curry said there exists a plethora of “racist” comments no one can deny that Limbaugh made. A little full disclosure here: As editor of Emerge, Curry ran two notorious covers with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on them.

One depicted Thomas with a handkerchief around his head. The second had him shining the shoes of Justice Antonin Scalia. For my money, those covers were just as despicable as anything Limbaugh has said, been accused of saying or ever will say.

One of the more notorious Limbaugh quotes is this one: “Look, let me put it to you this way: The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”

And NFL honchos have said it: “No” to any Limbaugh ownership, in full or in part. But have their standards about racist owners, racist comments and racist actions always been so high? I think not.

Let’s go back 31 years, quite a while ago, but clearly after the era of the NFL’s unofficial “quota” policy that limited black players to seven per team. Running back Lydell Mitchell of the then-Baltimore Colts, one of the best in the league, demanded to be paid as such. The Colts general manager, Dick Szymanski, rebuffed the demand, claiming that the salary Mitchell wanted would make him the highest paid black player in franchise history.

At least that’s what Mitchell and his agent claimed they heard. Szymanski said the word he used was “back,” not “black,” as if it were possible for two different sets of ears to hear the same word misspoken in precisely the same way.

It didn’t matter. By the end of this sorry episode, Mitchell was traded to the San Diego Chargers and then-Colts owner Robert Irsay uttered not one word about the matter. No apologies for any possible misunderstanding, no upbraiding of Szymanski.

For my money, Szymanski spoke for Irsay. The episode forever stamped Irsay in my mind as a boor and a buffoon given to not only drunken tirades in public, but who also may have been a racist.

Not one other NFL owner chided Irsay about the Mitchell affair. NFL honchos mumbled not a word, either. When, in early 1984, Irsay schlepped the team off to Indianapolis, there was similar silence from all those concerned.

Now could this be the same league that doesn’t want Limbaugh even as a part owner of a team? For heaven’s sake, if league owners and executives put up with Irsay, they should be able to put up with anybody.

Maybe Limbaugh should remind them of that.

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to Sudan.

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