(CNSNews.com) – Mark Muller -- a husband, father, businessman, and football fanatic -- is giving up on the game he loves, he said, because the National Football League let him down.
Muller, a fan of conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, said he will never attend another NFL game, because the league did not stand up for Limbaugh when Limbaugh's recent attempt to purchase part of the St. Louis Rams’ franchise came under fire from critics.
Muller, a Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holder since the 1980s, said the NFL’s refusal to defend Limbaugh’s right to try to participate in the bidding was disgraceful. He told CNSNews.com that, to him, the league’s “silence was deafening,” and what for him was once a passion has now been ruined.
“They’ve ruined it,” Muller said. “How could you take something so pure as football and ruin it? The reason I went to my first NFL game is because of listening to Rush Limbaugh talk about how great the NFL is.”
That first listen was accidental. Muller, then a struggling small business owner, said he was traveling through the Midwest making sales calls when he stumbled on the conservative host's radio program. Muller said he was inspired by Limbaugh’s message of hard work and personal achievement, and he worked harder, eventually building a thriving business.
“I started as a road salesman, working 70-80 hours a week, and I was getting very, very discouraged, because I wasn’t selling anything,” Muller relates. “As a road salesman, you bumble around on the radio [because] you’re bored to tears, you know, you’re traveling two to three hours between appointments.
“I stumbled onto a radio show one day,” he said, “I’d never heard of Rush Limbaugh, and it was a life-changing experience for me, because this guy said, ‘Hey man, you’re an American.’ It was like the guy [Limbaugh] was in the car sitting next to me.
“He said, ‘This is America. You can be anything you want to be. You’ve just got to want it bad enough. There’s nothing stopping you but the guy looking at you in the mirror,’” Muller added.
That accidental bit of inspiration also got Muller hooked on professional football. After hearing Limbaugh describe the NFL with the same zeal with which he described the American Dream, Muller took his wife to game and then the couple decided to give up virtually all their other leisure activities to free up funds to buy season tickets to their hometown team: the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I became hooked,” said Muller. “The guy had such an inspirational message about ‘Be all you can be.’ Then one day he was talking about football and he was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan at the time, talking about Terry Bradshaw and the glory days. He made a comment. He said, ‘If you want to see America at its best, if you’ve never been, go to an NFL football game.’”
“I went home, and I said, ‘Honey, let’s go to an NFL football game,’” said Muller. “We went and saw our first Kansas City Chiefs game, on Rush’s advice. It was so incredible. It’s moving. We made a decision about our finances, and we decided that if we gave up everything in our life at the time we could buy two season tickets, no more dinners out, nothing. We became season ticket holders.”
Muller, now the president of Max Motors in Kansas City – a new and used car dealership that he says is expanding despite a difficult climate for car sales – regularly holds tailgates for other fans, employees, and customers, a total of approximately 800 people.
“Today I own two car dealerships, a finance company, four buy-here-pay-here lots, and we’re getting ready to open a fifth. Life’s been very good to us, and I really credit Rush,” said Muller.
“It’s got to the point where we’re doing a tailgate for 700-800 people, most of them my clients. I’ll often buy blocks of 10 or 15 or 20 tickets at a time, and I give them to good customers,” he said.
Muller’s devotion to his team and to the NFL was so deep that on Sundays he was either in church or at an NFL stadium somewhere in the country. In fact, Muller said he once paid a scalper over $400 per ticket so he and his wife could watch the Chiefs play on Monday Night Football.
However, Muller’s love for football did not take precedence over his principles, he said, and when the NFL refused to come to Limbaugh’s defense in the face of false allegations of racism, Muller said goodbye.
“I was either in church or at the football game – we’ll be going to church more now,” he said. “Who came to Rush’s defense? What team owner, what football player? This man is probably the single greatest spokesman for the NFL other than someone that’s in the NFL, and he’s disqualified because he’s conservative? I find it quite offensive.
“This isn’t about Rush,” said Muller. “I don’t even listen to him anymore, but I know he isn’t racist. If he was, I wouldn’t have listened to him. I don’t stand for racism. It’s wrong. I find it offensive that he’s not qualified. Somebody stand up for the man!”
When instead of standing up for Limbaugh, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he would not want to see divisive remarks such as Limbaugh’s coming from an NFL owner, Muller decided he would never attend another game, a decision that left his football-loving family heartbroken and his wife in tears.
“Their silence is deafening,” he said. “I’ll never go to another NFL game. My wife and I, we had a family meeting over it. All day we talked about football and Rush Limbaugh, and by that night at dinner my wife broke down in absolute tears, and we decided to cancel our tickets, to never go to another game.
“It’s not my choice. There’s no political correctness on the football field. You’re judged strictly on your performance, as it should be, and the best team wins. Now they’re taking that away from me,” Muller added.
“Had they handled it behind closed doors and Rush had bowed out I’d have known that he’d taken a screwing but I wouldn’t have cared because I love the NFL,” said Muller. “But to have the commissioner of the NFL get on TV and say we find him inappropriate, well, by God, then I’m an inappropriate fan.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told CNSNews.com in an e-mail that the league has heard from people like Muller as well as those opposed to Limbaugh’s involvement. However, he maintained that, contrary to Limbaugh’s claims, the NFL had never pre-cleared his involvement and had nothing to do with Limbaugh’s ouster from the investment group attempting to buy the Rams.
“[W]e have heard from people on both sides of this issue involving Mr. Limbaugh,” Aiello told CNSNews.com. “Here are the facts. Dave Checketts invited Rush Limbaugh to be part of his group bidding to purchase the Rams, and Mr. Checketts decided to remove him from the group. There was no pre-clearance or pre-approval given by the NFL.”