Remember when Major League Baseball started testing for performance-enhancing drugs and it seemed like every player was in favor of taking down any and all cheaters? Even the dirtiest guys in the game were out there talking about cleaning up the sport. Well that was your classic union play, the ultimate political maneuver. The players were forced to react that way because they had no other option. Coming out against drug testing was a PR nightmare. But do you really believe all those guys who made millions thanks to steroids were happy to see that money disappear? Me either.
NFL players are now facing a similar situation – not quite as large, but just as controversial. Rush Limbaugh, a man who reminds most minorities of the Cameron Alexander character in American History X, is a member of the ownership group interested in purchasing the St. Louis Rams. Of course, the very idea has brought out all of the usual suspects. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are in a tizzy. Jason Whitlock is against it. MSNBC has pounced on Limbaugh.
But while liberals everywhere are ready to stand up and unite against the controversial radio host, you have to wonder if the sentiment within the league is similar. Mathias Kiwanuka of the Giants and Bart Scott from the Jets said they would never play for a team owned by Limbaugh and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay claimed he wouldn’t vote to allow Limbaugh into the league. But is this small group really speaking for the rest of the NFL?
The risk of acknowledging a willingness to play for Limbaugh is enormous. White guys would be labeled racists. Black guys would be called sell-outs. But that wouldn’t be true at all. Most of these guys are desperate for money, no matter who is writing the checks. The numbers don’t lie. 78 percent of NFL players go broke within two years of leaving football. I’ll repeat that so it really sinks in. 78 percent of NFL players go broke within two years of leaving football.
All things considered, it doesn’t seem like a smart financial move to alienate a possible employer because he thinks Donovan McNabb is overrated.
Not to mention, St. Louis is an attractive place to play for a lot of guys. Sure, right now the Rams look like a pee-wee football team, but we’re only a few years removed from the greatest show on turf. The ability to play eight games in perfect weather conditions is pretty appealing to offensive players. As numbers soar, so do contracts.
It all goes back to the money (just ask any player who has been involved in a contract holdout) and if Limbaugh and his ownership group have enough, I’m pretty sure 78 percent of the league would be willing to play for the Rams.
And I’m damn-near positive 75 percent of the owners would be willing to allow Limbaugh in if it means more money in their pockets. That’s what it takes to gain acceptance in the NFL. Yeses from 24 owners. For Limbaugh, winning over a group of mostly-conservative owners will be even easier than the players. He’s probably already won most of them over. That is what he does for a living after all.
In the end, it comes down to public relations versus looking in the mirror. The players and owners can all say one thing, but chances are they aren’t being honest. If they were, this wouldn’t even be an issue.