NFL Players Association Chief Won’t Say If NFL Treated Limbaugh Fairly

By Matt Cover | October 29, 2009 | 7:07 PM EDT

This photo provided by Rush Limbaugh shows Limbaugh in his Palm Beach, Fla. radio studio, the last week of Sept., 2009. (AP Photo/Photo courtesy of Rush Limbaugh)

( – NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith would not say whether the NFL had treated talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh fairly when racist quotes were falsely attributed to Limbaugh shortly after word leaked that he was involved in a potential bid to buy a stake in the St. Louis Rams.
Smith would not answer the direct question posed to him by at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, and said he was in no position to comment on remarks referencing Limbaugh's effort to buy part of the Rams made by a member of Congress at that hearing. 
In early October, racist quotes were falsely attributed to Limbaugh and were spread across the Internet and by mainstream media outlets. ESPN reported on Oct. 12  that DeMaurice Smith had “made a move to solidify the union against a bid by conservative talk show radio host Rush Limbaugh as part of a group that aims to purchase the St. Louis Rams.”  A few days later, the controversy led the leader of the investment-group to exclude Limbaugh from participating in the potential bid.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on head injuries in the NFL on Wednesday, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.) alluded to the controversy while admonishing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, explaining that her criticism of him, for a different matter, was based on her concern for the NFL’s image. Without mentioning Limbaugh by name, she made it clear that same concern was why she opposed Limbaugh's buying a stake in the Rams.

“I do believe it is important, and my colleague made a very important point,” she said. “We do not do this in anger. We do not do this in the need to undermine an organization that, frankly, there are many who will say that you are America’s pastime.”
“The great interest in who bought the St. Louis Rams was not about trying to deny capitalism, it was to have you [the NFL] have the right, the right attitude,” said Jackson-Lee. “That’s why some of us expressed our opposition to who might be buying the Rams.”


After that same hearing on Wednesday, asked DeMaurice Smith whether he thought Limbaugh had been treated fairly by some NFL players and others involved in the controversy who apparently based their opposition to Limbaugh's bid on the fake quotes that had been attributed to him. Smith would not answer the question. “Congresswoman Jackson-Lee brought up the issue surrounding the St. Louis Rams. I wanted to know, first, did you agree with her statement that it was about the image of the NFL, and [second] given that some of the statements--some of the statements that players used to justify their opposition Rush Limbaugh’s involvement--have turned out to be false, do you think that he received fair treatment from everyone involved?”
DeMaurice Smith: “I’ve spent enough time up on Capitol Hill not to characterize or comment on another congresswoman’s statement. She is a very strong congresswoman and she expressed her views.” “But do you think that his treatment was fair, getting off of what she said?”
DeMaurice Smith: “You asked me about her statement [and] I think that she is a strong congresswoman from Texas, she firmly believes in her love of football and she made it absolutely clear.”

After Rep. Jackson-Lee's remarks, Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) grilled NFL Commissioner Goodell on his treatment of Limbaugh, asking him whether or not NFL owners such as pop-singers Jennifer Lopez and Fergie would be held to the same standards.
“I would point out that you have a couple of owners that have performed lyrics in songs which are far more offensive,” King said. “With Fergie and with J-Lo [Lopez] they have – between the two of them – alleged that the CIA are terrorists and liars, they’ve promoted sexual abuse of women, they’ve used the N-word, verbal pornography, and recreational drug use etcetera, and they are owners of the [Miami] Dolphins.”
“If you’re concerned about this Mr. Goodell, then I would ask you, are you prepared to level the same charges [of divisiveness, made Oct. 13] against Fergie and J-Lo or are you prepared to apologize to Rush Limbaugh today?”
In response, Goodell repeated his claim that the NFL was about “unity” and that it did not tolerate “divisive actions.”
“I made the point, and I will make it again today, that the NFL is about bringing people together, it’s about unity, and that we do not move towards divisive actions,” said Goodell.