With Limbaugh out, Faulk to join bid?

Updated: October 16, 2009, 1:54 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh lashed out at NFL union leader DeMaurice Smith, activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the media a day after being dropped from a group trying to buy the St. Louis Rams.

On his syndicated show Thursday, Limbaugh said he was approached by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts earlier this year about participating in a Rams bid. Checketts assured him his involvement as a minority investor had been vetted by the NFL, he said.

"I said to him at this meeting, 'Are you aware of the firestorm?' He said 'We wouldn't have approached you if we hadn't taken care of that,' " said Limbaugh, a conservative favorite who is reviled by many liberals.

Rush Limbaugh
AP Photo/Photo courtesy of Rush LimbaughRush Limbaugh is blaming the players union in part for his being dropped from a potential Rams ownership group.

Limbaugh added that Checketts had told him his involvement had been cleared at the "highest levels of the NFL."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Colts owner Jim Irsay each expressed misgivings this week at a league-wide meeting about Limbaugh's involvement, with Goodell saying Limbaugh had made "polarizing" comments and Irsay vowing to vote against him.

On Wednesday, Checketts said Limbaugh had been dropped from the bid.

"This reflects where we're moving in an ethical nature," said Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for Sports and Society at Northeastern University.

"The league has 78 percent African-American players," Lebowitz said. "Do you bring in someone who has made racist statements to own a team that's largely made up of players the owner has made slurring statements about?"

With Limbaugh out, the Checketts group is sifting through new investors. A person familiar with the process said global financier and philanthropist George Soros is not under consideration to be a part of the Checketts group. Former Rams running back Marshall Faulk could be part of it, a source said.

Checketts is a ways away from reconfiguring the investment group, as the Rams are a ways from being sold at this point.

During a 15-minute counterattack at the start of his show, Limbaugh said he believes he's been made an example by a players' union seeking leverage in talks over a new collective bargaining agreement. What happened to him was an illustration of "Obama's America on full display," the commentator said.

Limbaugh's history hurt his participation in the bid. In 2003, he was forced to resign from ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" after saying of the Eagles' Donovan McNabb: "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."

According to transcripts posted on his Web site, in 2007 Limbaugh said: "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."

Limbaugh blamed Smith, executive director of the NFLPA and an "Obama-ite," along with Sharpton and Jackson, whom he referred to as "race hustlers," for Checketts' decision to drop him. He said his sacking was an example of the political clout wielded by President Barack Obama's administration.

"What is happening to the National Football League, what is about to happen to it, has already happened to Wall Street, has already happened to the automobile business," Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh said he was victimized in the media by "misreporting, lying, repeating the lies while also saying 'Limbaugh denies,' repeating the made-up quotes, the blind hatred."

"Believe me, the hatred that exists in this is found in the sportswriter community, it's found in the news business, it's found in the race hustler business," Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh said Checketts telephoned on Tuesday, asking him to withdraw from the group. Limbaugh responded that he wouldn't withdraw and that Checketts would have to "go public and fire me," and thought the news would be made public Thursday morning.

Smith, the NFLPA head, last week voiced his objections to Limbaugh's bid with Goodell, and urged players to speak out. Sharpton and Jackson also attacked Limbaugh's involvement, asserting that Limbaugh's track record on race should exclude him.

Limbaugh said the real reason he's out is the NFLPA's attempt to influence negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. "It's designed to intimidate the owners, frighten the owners, and say, 'We're running this league now, gang, not you,' " Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh said he's "lost nothing" because of the episode and vowed to continue being the "biggest non-paid promoter of the sport."

The Checketts group is among a reported half-dozen bidders for the Rams, and would keep the team in St. Louis. The children of the late Georgia Frontiere, who inherited the team upon her death in January 2008, announced in June that they had hired the investment firm Goldman Sachs to review assets of the estate, including the football team.

All franchise sales must be approved by 24 of the NFL's 32 teams -- an ownership group that is overwhelmingly white, conservative and focused on the bottom line, which could have suffered if fans or advertisers were angered by Limbaugh.

"There's an argument that says the very principles Rush espouses -- the free market -- are what did him in," said the conservative radio host Michael Smerconish. "This IS the free market. These are private businessmen who made a decision about what was in the best business interest of their thriving venture.

"It's definitely ironic. There's a bit of hypocrisy here as well," Smerconish said, citing a study that showed 70 percent of NFL owners' political contributions went to Republicans. "Through their dollars they are very supportive of the sort of politics that Rush talks."

Said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was a loud voice of opposition to Limbaugh's bid: "It's remarkable in that he was denied by other powerful whites. At the end of the day, his own peers said, 'You are a liability.' Even the rich and powerful do not want to be identified with racism."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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