01 Oct 2003 Rush’s 80 Words, by Geoffrey Moore
“I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.” – Rush Limbaugh on Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Donavan McNabb
Who would’ve thought these 80 words from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh would create such a firestorm? While much of it is merely one man’s opinion, perhaps we should take a look at something other than who said it to focus on what was actually said.
What cost Limbaugh his job as an ESPN commentator might actually be the truth. The media may actually be cheering a little harder for black quarterbacks.
Historically, aspiring black quarterbacks were often moved to positions such as wide receiver, running back or defensive back to take advantage of their athleticism. Another reason was the prevailing belief among owners, coaches and much of society at the time that blacks lacked the intellectual components necessary to play quarterback. We all know these claims now were nothing but racism. But, back then, successful black NFL quarterbacks such as Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon (who played in the Canadian Football League to get a fair chance) and Doug Williams could be counted without removing one’s shoes. Increasing numbers of black quarterbacks began to be drafted in the 1990’s. When three were chosen in the first round of the 1999 draft, it equaled the total number chosen in the first round during the previous 63 years.
Why would the media feel the need to cheer a little harder for black quarterbacks? Among the most obvious reasons is guilt, with a dash of social justice. With the pattern of racism that existed primarily at the quarterback position, perhaps they feel it’s their duty now to help correct something in which they were complicit. How many times do we need to hear that a great play made by a white player was smart while a great play made by a black quarterback was athletic?
Another reason is quite simple: Who cheers against the underdog? It’s the same sort of mentality held by people who are amazed when a black speaks proper English. To them, it’s like seeing a fish riding a bike; they’re simply amazed as they cheer for the perceived underdog. This might be an example of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” that President Bush speaks about. It’s also the same sort of treatment that Jason Sehorn, the NFL’s only white cornerback, encounters.
What’s most disturbing about this controversy is not what Limbaugh said about black quarterbacks, but the reaction from the media and the public. It’s very telling of our society that, instead of creating thoughtful conversation, his 80 words brought out the politically correct in full force to stifle any debate whatsoever. The leftist thought police targeted the messenger without debating the message.
Whether or not Donavan McNabb is overrated is arguable. It’s based purely on people’s opinions. While some statistics say he’s not one of the top quarterbacks, there are other stats that put him in the top tier. One thing I do believe is that the black quarterbacks in the NFL are talented and do not need to be over-hyped or treated as charity cases. Let them stand on their own merits and they’ll do just fine.
It’s particularly odd to me that so many people fail to acknowledge the NFL already has a rule backing up part of what Rush said. After the Detroit Lions hired a new head coach without interviewing any black candidates, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue told team presidents last May that future failures to interview minority candidates in the future could lead to fines of $500,000 or higher because doing so was “conduct detrimental” to the NFL.
It’s particularly odd to me that people fail to acknowledge the NFL already has implemented the “Rooney Rule” on hiring diversity supporting part of Rush’s assertions. If this doesn’t illustrate Limbaugh’s point, I don’t know what will.