PR: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Rush Limbaugh Forgets - An NFL Story

by Bobby McDonald on 10/13/2009

Rush Limbaugh's Bid to Buy St. Louis Raises Eyebrows

Rush LimbaughConservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has never been known to shy away from controversy, but he may have bit off more than he can chew in his most recent business project – a bid to become a owner of the St. Louis Rams.  When the news broke, Limbaugh's bid raised a few eyebrows and more than a few pulses.  Why all the controversy?  In 2003, then-NFL commentator Limbaugh resigned amid racially-charged commments about Philidelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is black:

"I don't think he's [Donovan McNabb] been that good from the get-go.  I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL.  I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.  They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.  I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn't deserve.  The defense carried this team."

While time has proved Limbaugh's stance to be incorrect (McNabb is still the quarterback in Philly), the  comments prompted Limbaugh's resignation from NFL Sunday Countdown.  While he did resign. Limbaugh would not back down on his national syndicated radio show, saying:

"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," Limbaugh said. "If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community."

Limbaugh's comments created quite the public backlash in 2003, and his current bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams isn't doing the NFL any public relations favors, either.  There are 10 other groups bidding on the Rams -- so the likelihood of Limbaugh becoming an owner is slim -- but Limbaugh should have framed the situation from his perspective before the news broke.  If this had occured, he would have at least had a good headstart. Unlike football, the best public relations comes from a good offense and not a good defense.

Several days after the news broke that Limbaugh was in early talks with the NFL and the St. Louis Rams, DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL's Players Association sent an e-mail to the executive committee detailing the Union's belief that Limbaugh should not be allowed to become an NFL owner.  Several current NFL players have also expressed their opinion on the subject.  In the end, whether you appreciate Limbaugh's views or not, this is not a good development for the NFL.  Instead of focusing on the game, the competition and great moments that NFL enthusists have already seen and are looking forward to during the rest of the season, focus is being paid to Limbaugh's controversal statements and his bid to purchase the Rams.  While the Players Union and the NFL front office have no official say in whether Limbaugh becomes an owner or not (the owners vote to decide), they can pressure the owners one way or another (as already seen by Smith's email to the Union).