Next, Rush Limbaugh will be forced to resign for saying that Katie Couric is cute, that Saddam Hussein is evil, and that the sun rises in the east. His recent comment on ESPN that sports reporters might want a black quarterback to succeed because of their “social concern” is self-evidently true. That it created a furor leading to his resignation is a sign of a pervasive double standard in American life–the Left obsessively racializes nearly everything, but if a conservative dares mention anything related to race, he is dubbed a “racist” and considered unfit for polite company.
Consider the subject of this controversy, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose performance, Limbaugh argued, has been overhyped by well-intentioned journalists interested in the success of a black quarterback. McNabb said he couldn’t believe that Rush would inject race into any discussion of his play. This is entirely disingenuous. It is liberal quota-mongers, the NFL itself, and occasionally disgruntled black players and coaches who have made football a race-obsessed zone.
A few years ago when he was in contract negotiations with the Eagles, McNabb’s agent suggested that the quarterback wasn’t getting what he wanted from the Eagles franchise because he was black. So the McNabb position–and that of all the liberals gang-tackling Limbaugh–is that race should never be a topic in football conversation unless you are alleging that the NFL is run by racists conspiring at every turn against black athletes because they are black, black, black. Otherwise, all should be race-neutrality and colorblindness.
Well, not really–because teams must be punished for hiring coaches of the wrong race. The NFL has a quasi-quota policy for the hiring of coaches. Unless a team interviews a black prospect for a job opening, it will be fined. The Detroit Lions got hit with a $200,000 fine in July because the team didn’t interview a black candidate before hiring white head coach Steve Mariucci. “Civil rights” lawyer Cyrus Mehri, flimflam artist Jesse Jackson and the Detroit City Council all denounced the team for hiring the wrong-colored coach.
The irony of the Limbaugh controversy is that those most glad he is gone from ESPN for mentioning race are the most race-conscious critics of the NFL. Kellen Winslow–a wonderful former player now turned embittered, race-obsessed crank–is delighted that Limbaugh is gone. But Winslow can hardly breathe without mentioning racial grievances and reportedly insisted that his son play at a college with a black coach. As Winslow’s son put it, “You need to see people in positions of high authority of the same color, of the same race as yourself.”
There once was a shortage of black quarterbacks in the NFL because of racist stereotypes about their abilities. But those days are gone. Limbaugh’s point is that liberal-leaning writers can’t give up on the idea that black quarterbacks must be embattled and therefore due special regard because of their race. Look no further than a January 2002 piece from the liberal Salon.com headlined, “Black QBs–Again: With McNabb and [Kordell] Stewart leading their teams into the conference championships, will athletic quarterbacks outduel their white counterparts?” Or this headline from a 2001 Salon piece: “Young, Gifted and Under Center: The current bumper crop of black quarterbacks leading their teams to the playoffs doesn’t mean racism is dead in the NFL.”
You can argue with Limbaugh’s opinion that Donovan McNabb–currently ranked near the bottom of NFL QBs–has been overrated and that journalists rooting for him accounts for it. But that race matters in the NFL and in the media coverage of it is indisputable. Instead of shutting up conservatives who notice this, maybe all of Limbaugh’s critics should resolve to rollback the NFL coach-hiring policy and never mention race again in connection with a sport that should be all about merit. That should come as a blessed relief to everyone from Donovan McNabb to Rush Limbaugh.
(c)2003 King Features Syndicate
– Rich Lowry is author of the upcoming Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.