Limbaugh resigns from ESPN after McNabb responds

Updated: October 2, 2003, 2:17 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - A day after resigning his position on ESPN's "NFL Sunday Countdown," Rush Limbaugh insisted that his comments about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb were not racially motivated.

The staunchly conservative Limbaugh on Thursday again defended comments he made Sunday on "Countdown," claiming the hype surrounding McNabb may come from the NFL and media wanting a black quarterback to do well, rather than his performance on the field.

"In my opinion, it wasn't a racial opinion, it was a media opinion," Limbaugh said Thursday morning in an address at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Philadelphia. "We live in a country where, supposedly, by right of the First Amendment you offer opinions but you can't in certain places and certain times."

Limbaugh resigned his position on "Countdown" on Wednesday night, hours after McNabb expressed disappointment with Limbaugh's remarks. On Thursday morning, McNabb issued the following statement.

"I said all I have to on the topic at the press conference. I spent more time on the subject than I expected to. It's time for me to concentrate on the Redskins and try to win a football game with my teammates this weekend."

Limbaugh also said Thursday morning that ESPN management "vigorously defended" his comments, but resigned because his cast members on "Countdown" were made to feel "uncomfortable" for not challenging his comments.

"Because some of my cast members were made to feel uncomfortable, I felt the path of least resistance was for me to resign," Limbaugh said.

ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer announced Limbaugh's resignation on Wednesday night.

"We accept his resignation and regret the circumstances surrounding this, Bodenheimer said in a statement. "We believe that he took the appropriate action to resolve this matter expeditiously."

McNabb called Limbaugh's comments "somewhat shocking to hear on national TV" and was upset that ESPN's other analysts didn't oppose Limbaugh. Also on the panel were former NFL players Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson, who are black, and Steve Young.

"I'm not pinpointing anyone," McNabb said. "I'm a Michael Irvin fan, Steve Young fan and Tom Jackson. But somebody should have said something to the race issue."

Jackson briefly responded to Limbaugh during Sunday's show, pointing out McNabb has guided the Eagles to consecutive appearances in the NFC championship game without much offensive star power.

Limbaugh was added to the show this year to present a fan's viewpoint. His claims may have been sparked by the Eagles' slow start this season. Before Sunday's 23-13 win in Buffalo, they lost to Tampa Bay and New England by a combined 48-10.

After the losses, McNabb was the lowest-rated quarterback in the league. But in his first four NFL seasons, he led the Eagles to a pair of NFC championship games. Among active quarterbacks with at least 45 starts, he was third with a .646 winning percentage.

In addition, McNabb has become one of the league's most popular players. His No. 5 jersey is among the top sellers and he is a pitchman for Campbell's Chunky Soup.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index