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The 'Debate' Over Rush and the Rams

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AP

Reports that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is one of a group of partners who have made a bid for the St. Louis Rams football team has some on the left in a tizzy.

Those noted racial rabble-rousers, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, have accused Limbaugh of racism, thus creating an impenetrable "red zone" through which no white person can ever penetrate. Getting between these two "RINOs" (reverends in name only) and a TV camera is more dangerous that confronting a blitzing linebacker.

The first thing that must be understood in this "debate" is that both left and right are in constant need of enemies to pump-up the grievances of their respective constituencies. This is in part what makes for entertaining programming and allows talk show hosts to charge, in Limbaugh's words, "confiscatory ad rates."

The second issue is free speech. Sharpton and Jackson have the right to say whatever they wish, have their own programs, write columns (Jackson does) and their ideas -- however outrageous or untrue -- can be judged by those who choose the listen to them. If both of them wanted to buy an NFL team, I doubt that Limbaugh would object, though Sharpton is on record of having charged racism against six white cops in the notorious Tawana Brawley alleged rape case which wasn't (Google "Tawana Brawley and Al Sharpton" for the lurid details).

There have been suggestions that black players might not play should Limbaugh become one of the owners of the Rams. I doubt that a boycott would succeed, even if it were tried. Where else could these star athletes make that kind of money? The color of green covers a multitude of perceived, trumped-up and actual sins.

The late George Preston Marshall owned The Washington Redskins for many years. He wouldn't hire black players until he traded for the great Bobby Mitchell in 1962. While his fellow NFL owners would tease and sometimes chastise him for his all-white team, Marshall was a latecomer to integration. Now the Redskins, like all other NFL clubs, have a majority of black players, not because they are black, but because they are the best at what they do. Limbaugh and every other NFL fan appreciates this fact because they want their favorite team to win and the best players make for the most interesting games.

Jackson and Sharpton do not speak for all African-Americans, as evidenced by the hits they take from black callers to Limbaugh's show. Anyone who regularly listens to Limbaugh knows that black callers get more respect (and air time) than almost anyone else.

If the NFL were to establish criteria for points of view, they would have to disenfranchise a lot of owners, at least some of whom who are political conservatives and fans of Limbaugh. He has been a guest in their boxes at games. The NFL won't go down that road because this is about business, not politics. If it ever became about politics, professional football would be hurt far more than Rush Limbaugh.

Cal Thomas is a FOX News contributor and syndicated columnist who appears in more than 500 newspapers.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.