|Thursday, October 2
Limbaugh resigns from ESPN's NFL pregame show
ESPN.com news services
PHILADELPHIA -- Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh said Thursday he resigned from ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" pregame show to protect network employees from the uproar over critical comments he made about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Limbaugh quit late Wednesday, three days after saying on the show that McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.
"The great people at ESPN did not want to deal with this kind of reaction," Limbaugh told the National Association of Broadcasters at its convention in Philadelphia on Thursday. "The path of least resistance became for me to resign."
George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, accepted Limbaugh's resignation Wednesday. ABC and ESPN are owned by Walt Disney Co.
"We regret the circumstances surrounding this," Bodenheimer said. "We believe that he took the appropriate action to resolve this matter expeditiously."
On Wednesday, McNabb said he didn't mind criticism of his performance, but was upset Limbaugh made his race an issue and said it was too late for an apology.
"It's somewhat shocking to hear that on national TV from him," McNabb said. "It's not something that I can sit here and say won't bother me."
McNabb said in a statement issued Thursday by the team that he won't address the topic.
"I said all I have to on the topic at the press conference [Wednesday]," the statement read. "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."
Also in a news conference on Thursday, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie accused ESPN of "institutional racism" for among other things hiring Limbaugh in the first place. In response, ESPN issued a statement, saying: "We are not going to respond to an assertion that is not based in reality."
Talking about his ESPN comments, Limbaugh said Thursday he had thought about the issue the night before making the comments. He said he was used to scrutiny after 15 years in radio and expects to get attention.
"I figured if I'm going to do this [the ESPN show] I should be who I am," he said.
About a half-dozen people protested outside the convention.
Limbaugh has denied the comments he made on the show were racially motivated.
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," Limbaugh said on Sunday's show. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
Chris Berman, who anchors the ESPN show, said he did not believe Limbaugh's tone or intent was malicious.
"As cut and dry as it seems in print, I didn't think so when it went by my ears," Berman said. "I probably should have looked to soften it."
Democratic presidential candidates Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and the Rev. Al Sharpton had called for ESPN to fire Limbaugh over the remarks. The NAACP also condemned Limbaugh's remarks, calling them "bigoted and ignorant."
Limbaugh is the radio host of the politically focused "Rush Limbaugh Show," syndicated in more than 650 markets. ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said ratings for "Sunday NFL Countdown" were up 10 percent overall since Limbaugh joined the show this year.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.