Rush's 80 Words
by Geoffrey Moore
A New Visions Commentary
paper published October 2003 by The National Center for Public
Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
"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
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
(Geoffrey Moore is a member
of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership
network Project 21, and an MBA student and market analyst in
the Chicago area. Comments may be sent to [email protected].)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author,
and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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