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Rush Fumbled
by Aaron Goldstein
08 October 2003

The sports media cares if their team wins, not if their starting quarterback is black.

Rush Limbaugh did the right thing when he resigned from ESPN’s Sunday Football Countdown over remarks he made concerning Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Limbaugh suggested that McNabb was “overrated” and only held in high regard by the media because it wants to see a black quarterback succeed.

Limbaugh is certainly not the first sports commentator to consider McNabb to be overrated.  Indeed, Limbaugh attributed the success of the Eagles to their powerful defensive line as opposed to their offense. The Eagles have lost many of their good defensive players and have struggled thus far this season, as has McNabb. Those comments are fair game.

But what does McNabb’s race have to do with his success or failure as a football player? For Limbaugh to raise McNabb’s race is both inflammatory and irrelevant. The sports media cares if their team wins, not if their starting quarterback is black.

More to the point, McNabb is hardly the first quarterback who just happens to be black. One can point to Dante Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings and Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons as two of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. What about Doug Williams, who guided the Washington Redskins to a championship in Super Bowl XXII? What about Warren Moon, who had an outstanding NFL career with the now defunct Houston Oilers and the Vikings?    Before coming to the NFL, Moon led the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL) to five consecutive Grey Cup Championships. In the last of these championships in 1981, the opposing quarterback for the Ottawa Roughriders was one J.C. Watts. This is the same J.C. Watts who served as a Republican for four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District. At best, Limbaugh does not know as much about the NFL as he would have us believe.   At worst, he has become a liberal caricature of a conservative and for that he has only himself to blame.

Martin Luther King, Jr wanted a world where one should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Ronald Reagan envisioned “a color blind society.”  Most conservative intellectuals argue for “race neutrality” when it comes to advancement in education and employment.  When conservatives like Limbaugh or Trent Lott make ill-advised remarks it creates the perception that conservatives possess a deep-rooted hostility to blacks and undermines the efforts of conservatives who believe in equality of opportunity to make America “race neutral” and “color blind.”

Of course, if I believed that conservatives were inherently racist I would not consider myself one.  Most conservatives are fair-minded and look at the individual and their merits. Indeed, it is worth remembering that Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson both supported the Republican Party. Surely, Owens and Robinson would not have become Republicans if they believed them to be inherently hostile to them. Indeed, Owens became a Republican when Alf Landon, the 1936 GOP Presidential Nominee, shook his hand after his Gold Medal winning performance in that year’s Summer Olympics in Munich.  FDR would not do so.

Rush Limbaugh fumbled.  It is now up to conservatives to recover the ball.    We can best do that by judging individuals based on their performance on the field not by their identity off the field.

Aaron Goldstein, a former member of the socialist New Democratic Party, writes poetry and has a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. His poetry can be viewed on www.poetsforthewar.org.

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