- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2009

Rush Limbaugh has drawn the rebuke of the NFL Players Association’s executive director because of the talk radio star’s alignment with a group that is bidding to purchase the St. Louis Rams.

DeMaurice Smith makes it clear that he sees Limbaugh as a divisive element in American politics and unfit to be part of an NFL ownership group, as first reported by ESPN.

Smith is playing politics with the marketplace, rallying the players to voice their opposition against Limbaugh, a highly successful talk radio host whose conservative views rankle the far-left wing of the Democratic Party.

Limbaugh often traffics in hyperbole and bombast to make his points, which gives his detractors plenty of opportunities to cherry-pick his comments and issue dialogue-stopping charges.

Perhaps no one on the airwaves gets the race card dropped on them more than Limbaugh, mostly because his chicken-fertilizer detector is sharp and he eschews the politically correct tenets of the day.

He is not afraid to opine on racially sensitive topics and adopt positions at odds with the fashionable views of the so-called media elite in Manhattan and inside the Beltway.

His daytime talk role in a politically Balkanized America hardly should preclude his candidacy to be a member of the NFL industry.

The country remains as politically polarized as ever but comes together each fall to worship at the altar of the NFL.

The presence of Limbaugh would not alter the transcendent quality of the NFL.

That, too, goes for Keith Olbermann, who is the antithesis of Limbaugh politically but who has easily shifted into his role as the co-host on NBC’s “Football Night in America” this season.

Those with a GOP bent in the NFL expressed no alarm over Olbermann coming to their end of the entertainment pool. Nor should they have.

Smith, it seems, is guilty of what he fears in Limbaugh.

“Sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to the players union’s executive committee. “Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred.”

Smith is hardly the bearer of unity and good cheer in his missive. He wants no part of the America that either listens to Limbaugh’s show or subscribes to many of his views, which is half the country, give or take a few million votes in each of the past two presidential elections.

Smith neglects to see that one person’s definition of incendiary speech is another person’s definition of common sense.

Just as Smith may equate Limbaugh’s views to nails being run against a chalkboard, those in Limbaugh’s camp could think the same of Olbermann.

Political commentary, whether in print or on the airwaves, is not intended to be unifying. It is a demanding gig that inevitably alienates if the person is passionate, committed and convinced.

That would be Limbaugh, who has been heard in America’s homes and automobiles the past 21 years. He has stepped into it on occasion, as anyone filling that much airtime on a daily basis would.

He has inspired and offended. He is seen as brilliant or the embodiment of all that is wrong with America. There is no middle ground with Limbaugh, and he would have it no other way.

Several players already have balked at the idea of playing on a team that has Limbaugh in the ownership group. That contention could be more fashionable than genuine because no sale of the Rams is imminent or even definite.

Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka told the New York Daily News: “I don’t want anything to do with a team that he has any part of. He can do whatever he wants. It is a free country. But if it goes through, I can tell you where I am not going to play.”

That could be so until it would be time to discuss money, America’s great persuader.

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