Radio-talk show host Rush Limbaugh resigned from ESPN’s NFL pre-game show after making controversial remarks about the Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb, an African-American and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
“I don’t think he’s 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,” Limbaugh said. “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.”
Before resigning, Limbaugh defended his comments. “All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something. If I wasn’t right, there wouldn’t be a cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community,” he said on his radio show. “There’s no racism here. There’s no racist intent whatsoever.”
Others disagree with Limbaugh’s self-perception.
Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, said Limbaugh’s statement was “bigoted and ignorant.”
Calling Limbaugh’s remarks “outrageous and offensive,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said, “People like Rush Limbaugh are a constant reminder that we still have a long way to go in dealing with race in America.”
Even ESPN called his remarks about McNabb “insensitive and inappropriate.”
NFL spokesman Joe Browne said, “Donovan’s stature as a top quarterback reflects his performance on the field, not the desires of the media.”
If we consider Limbaugh’s ESPN comments as an isolated event, then we might shake our heads, sigh and give him a pass on the charge of racism. But he has repeatedly played the race-card.
“Take that bone out of your nose and call me back,” Limbaugh told a black caller.
On another occasion, he asked, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”
After Spike Lee encouraged black school children to skip school to watch his movie about Malcolm X, Limbaugh said: “Spike, if you’re going to do that, let’s complete the education experience. You should tell them that they should loot the theater, and then blow it up on their way out.”
Limbaugh said: “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”
So is Rush a racist? By his words, he sounds like one.
Referring to our speech, Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure” (Mt 12:34-35).
Jesus added that we are condemned by our words.
As troubling as his penchant for using racially charged rhetoric, one must wonder why Rush is so popular. With a show carried on over 600 radio stations, why is Rush such a hit with the white-male audience? Would his ratings remain as high if he made a concerted effort to avoid race-based comments and speak constructively for civil rights and better race relations?
If his talent is really “on loan from God,” as he asserts, then Rush needs to understand that gifts are given to pursue the divine will. And surely, racial reconciliation and justice are part of God’s will for our nation.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com.