ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Rush Limbaugh is out of the running to buy the St. Louis Rams. A short time ago, the group that Limbaugh was part of announced that the radio talk show host had been dropped. The group said in a statement that Limbaugh's participation in the bid had become a complication and a distraction and that it will move forward without him.
NPR's Tom Goldman has been following this story. Hiya, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: Limbaugh was very interested in being a part of this deal to buy this National Football League franchise, the Rams, how did it turn south on him so fast?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, news talk shows and sports talk shows were filled with talk, not surprisingly about this over the last 24, 48 hours. And the news sports confluence brought together everyone from James Carville to New York Jets' linebacker Bart Scott. It even got me, Robert, on the John Thompson radio show today in Washington, D.C. How about that?
SIEGEL: Well done.
GOLDMAN: Thank you very much. Most of the talk was negative about Limbaugh. The NFL players union had Demorris Smith ask players to oppose Limbaugh's bid. A few did publicly: Al Sharpton weighed in, Jesse Jackson was critical. But probably the most damaging feedback came from the NFL itself at the owners meetings up in Boston yesterday.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wouldn't want to see divisive comments from people who are in a responsible position within the NFL. That was a nod to Rush Limbaugh. And then at least one owner, Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts, was adamant, saying no way would he vote for Rush Limbaugh to be even a minority owner of an NFL team. And it would take 24 of 32 NFL owners to vote yes for new ownership. And the feeling, I believe, was just that there was this groundswell of opposition and it wasn't going to work.
SIEGEL: But, as you've said, most of this talk was negative, but not all of it. Some players and others said they weren't bothered by Limbaugh's bid or that he at least should have a shot at it.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, you're right. San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawn Merriman was one of those - said he would play on a team partially owned by Rush Limbaugh. And I mentioned being on the John Thompson show, very interesting guy. He's, you know, been a prominent voice for many years on race and sports. And he said he abhors what Rush Limbaugh says and has said in the past. But he thought it would be wrong to deny Limbaugh a chance at ownership because of sensitivity to words.
And Thompson and others think the concern over words should be replaced by the concern over deeds or lack thereof, you know, while the NFL comes out of this looking like they've taken a stand on race. In fact, you know, why not take a stand on the need for minority owners or for minority members in executive positions within teams? So, it's this old, kind of, thing with, you know, words versus actions.
SIEGEL: I'm sure that a lot of people in the NFL would prefer that you were talking right now about Eli Manning's heel or something - something that actually happens in a football game instead of these off-field dramas, which have been so big this year.
First, Michael Vick returning to pro football after serving prison time for his dog fighting connections. And now the Rush Limbaugh bid for a franchise. In both cases it sounds like the National Football League has been very, very aware of public perceptions of it.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it has been. And, you know, I can think back to a USA Today article, gosh, two years ago almost, with pictures of all the players who had run afoul of the law, you know. And the NFL has been fighting this public perception problem for a long time. You see it in the reintroduction of Michael Vick to the NFL very carefully done by Roger Goodell.
And now Rush Limbaugh is out even before he really got in because of what he has said in the past. So, yes, very sensitive to that. You got to watch what you say and watch what you do in this league right now.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: NPR's Tom Goldman.
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