"I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here. I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL -- absolutely not."
- Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
So says the man who has apparently surreptitiously been appointed our new Sports Speech Czar. His first ruling is declaring Rush Limbaugh effectively prohibited from making application to be a part owner of a National Football League franchise -- a process that is supposed to be completed behind closed doors. His offenses? Take your pick of statements real or imagined, interpreted and misinterpreted. We have seen and heard, however, fabricated quotations attributed to Mr. Limbaugh taken as the absolute truth. Current owners do have some items on the record, however.
Tennis star Serena Williams is a part owner of the Miami Dolphins, an NFL franchise. During a match against Kim Clijsters in the most recent U.S. Open, Ms. Williams objected to a foot fault called against her by a lineswoman at a key point in the match. Ms. Williams approached the lineswoman, shook her racket and unleashed a torrent of abuse rarely seen on a court since John McEnroe and Jimmy Conners were prowling the baselines:
"I swear to God," Williams shouted at the lineswoman, "I'll f------ take this ball and shove it down your f------ throat!"
We await Czar Goodell's ruling on this absolute breach of conduct, as it is unimaginable that a league like the NFL would want a team owner and person of responsible position make such comments.
Jeffrey Lurie owns the Philadelphia Eagles. This past summer he signed Michael Vick, who had served 18 months in federal prison for funding and managing a dog-fighting ring out of his residence. While admitting the signing of Mr. Vick was "counterintuitive," Mr. Lurie said he needed to see that there was some sort of personal remorse on Mr. Vick's part before handing him a two-year contract with millions.
"I needed to see a lot of self-hatred in order to approve this."
In other words, a white owner needed to see self-hatred by a black man to whom the black man would be accountable? This is, apparently, a non-objectionable sentiment coming from someone in a responsible position in the NFL. This is the case because Czar Goodell was one of the individuals who influenced Mr. Lurie's decision to sign Vick?
The late Georgia Frontiere owned the St. Louis Rams for years, going back to the franchise's days in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, they drafted a defensive end named Leonard Little.
After leaving a birthday party in his honor in October 1998, Little ran a red light and crashed his Lincoln Navigator into the vehicle of one Susan Gutweiler in St. Louis. Ms. Gutweiler was killed. Upon testing, Mr. Little's blood alcohol level read over twice the legal limit in Missouri. He was convicted of manslaughter and spent a grand total of 90 days in jail, with 1,000 hours of community service tacked on.
In April 2004, Mr. Little was charged with felony DUI and speeding after being stopped by police in Ladue, Missouri. Mr. Little was acquitted of the DUI but convicted of the speeding charge.
All in all, Mr. Little was suspended by the NFL for a paltry eight games in 1999. The Rams made no move to unload him or terminate his contract. He started all 16 games in 2004 -- after the second arrest for DUI. In 2006, the Rams awarded Mr. Little a three-year extension on his contract worth nearly $20 million. He received over $6 million for merely signing his name to that contract and is presently a member of the Rams.
Mr. Little and Mr. Vick seem to have enjoyed or currently enjoy a limitless supply of second chances after what in reality would have ended the working lives of the average citizen. They enjoy the benefit of the doubt despite their actions resulting in violence and death. The owners of the teams on which they play were never adequately punished, reprimanded, or threatened with expulsion from the league. These are the sorts of people in responsible positions in the NFL that Czar Goodell would apparently like you to compare and contrast with Rush Limbaugh.
William Clay Ford is the owner of the Detroit Lions. He is the grandson of Henry Ford. On July 30, 1938, Henry Ford celebrated his 75th birthday. Among the tributes paid to the automaker was his acceptance of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest honor that Adolf Hitler could bestow upon a non-German. The elder Ford was publicly aghast at any suggestion that the award was given to him for anything other than good faith. The German people "as a whole are not in sympathy with their rulers with their rulers in their anti-Jewish policies."
Off the record, Mr. Ford was a little more honest. As recounted in Ford: The Men and the Machine by Robert Lacey, he told an acquaintance shortly after the Nazis overran Poland, "There hasn't been a shot fired. The whole thing has just been made up by Jew bankers."
Of course, William Clay Ford did not make these comments himself, but then again, neither Rush Limbaugh nor his father made the comments being attributed to him, and yet Rush is apparently barred from entering the league as an owner. Who knows what lurks in the heart of William Clay Ford -- aside from a passionate commitment to mediocrity on the football field. Could he have inherited his grandfather's anti-Jewish leanings? Is this the sort of thing that the NFL should continue to tolerate?
Keith Olbermann does not own an NFL team. He is not wealthy enough. But in addition to his nightly duties on his left-wing political show "Countdown," he reads over highlight reels with smarmy commentary on NBC's "Sunday Night Football." Among his other transgressions of good taste, Mr. Olbermann earlier this week referred to columnist Michelle Malkin (of Asian descent) as "A big mashed-up piece of meat with lipstick on it."
Does Czar Goodell wish to let Mr. Olbermann's political comments darken the reputation of the National Football League? Or might Czar Goodell agree that Michelle Malkin is a "mashed-up piece of meat" and that Mr. Olbermann is the sort of person the NFL should be promoting to help advance the league.
As any casual football fan knows, the above are but a few examples of malfeasance, immaturity, and insensitivity that runs rampant throughout the NFL on and off the field. It seems some people in responsible positions are more equal than others in Roger Goodell's No Fairness League.
Czar Goodell and his posse of popinjays are about to get a lesson in how this type of smear-mongering impacts another balance, however - the bottom line.
Matthew May welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org