QB disappointed others didn't respond during show

Updated: October 2, 2003, 12:49 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb isn't looking for an apology from Rush Limbaugh, who said he was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

It's too late for that.

An apology would do no good because he obviously thought about it before he said it.
Donovan McNabb

"He said what he said. ... I'm sure he's not the only one that feels that way but it's somewhat shocking to actually hear that on national TV," the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback said of Limbaugh at a news conference Wednesday. "An apology would do no good because he obviously thought about it before he said it."

Before McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Limbaugh said during ESPN's pregame show that he didn't think McNabb was as good as perceived from the start.

"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. "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."

Before Limbaugh resigned, ESPN released an official statement Wednesday night.

"Although Mr. Limbaugh today stated that his comments had 'no racist intent whatsoever,' we have communicated to Mr. Limbaugh that his comments were insensitive and inappropriate. Throughout his career, he has been consistent in his criticism of the media's coverage of a myriad of issues," the statement read.

Limbaugh didn't back down from his comments during his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday.

All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something.
Rush Limbaugh

"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," Limbaugh said. "If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community."

The NFL disclaimed any responsibility.

"ESPN knew what it was getting when they hired Rush Limbaugh," league vice president Joe Browne said. "ESPN selects its on-air talent, not the NFL."

Chris Berman, who anchors the ESPN show, described himself as "a New England Democrat" but added, "I don't think Rush was malicious in intent or in tone.''

"As cut and dry as it seems in print, I didn't think so when it went by my ears," he said. "I probably should have looked to soften it.

"We're sorry we upset a guy who got off to a rough start. We don't need to be in the middle of his travails.

"As the quarterback of the show, I feel bad about it. I don't think it was meant the way it came out. I don't think that defines the way Rush feels about people."

McNabb, who was runner-up for the league MVP award in 2000 and has led the Eagles to two straight NFC championship games, said he has no quarrel with Limbaugh's comment on his playing ability. "I know I played badly the first two games," he said Wednesday.

ESPN executive vice president Mark Shapiro came to the conservative Limbaugh's defense.

"This is not a politically motivated comment. This is a sports and media argument," Shapiro was quoted as saying in a USA Today column published Wednesday. "Rush was arguing McNabb is essentially overrated and that his success is more in part [due] to the team assembled around him.

"We brought Rush in for no-holds-barred opinion. Early on, he has delivered," Shapiro told USA Today.

According to USA Today, ESPN chose not to have Jackson, Irvin, and Young comment.

The outcry in Philadelphia might grow when the timing of Limbaugh's remarks is considered: He is scheduled to be in the city Thursday to give a keynote address at the three-day National Association of Broadcasters radio convention.

ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said Tuesday that with Limbaugh on the show this season, ratings for "Sunday NFL Countdown" are up 10 percent overall, and 26 percent among the 18-to-34 male demographic. Sunday's show drew its biggest audience in the regular season since November 1996.

Limbaugh is best known as the radio host of the conservative, politically focused "Rush Limbaugh Show," which is syndicated in more than 650 markets worldwide.

He spent most of the 1990s assailing then-President Clinton and now spends Sunday mornings talking football, a job he called "the fulfillment of a dream."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.