Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts' bid to buy the St. Louis Rams. This should be completely unsurprising news. Here's why:
1. For starters, this is a business. Dave Checketts is a businessman, and he's looking to do a business deal. As soon as Limbaugh's partnership was announced, the maelstrom of criticism that descended on the bid threatened those efforts.
Checketts' bid, from all public indications--of which there have been very few--appears to have a very reasonable shot of winning. The Rams front office has declined to comment on the sale process, other than to say it's ongoing, so we don't know for certain what other bids are out there, though there are reportedly six of them in the mix. We do know that a sale is expected to take place sometime between now and 2015, when the team's lease agreement with the Edward Jones dome faces a critical plot point (the dome will be required to meet "top-tier" status among NFL stadiums, which it won't without a significant upgrade). But that's about it.
Checketts's ownership of the Blues has thus far been successful, and a prime benefit of his Rams bid is that he intends to keep the team in St. Louis. With Limbaugh's political baggage wrecking the credibility of his otherwise promising effort, Checketts had every reason to part ways with Rush.
2. There's no official word, so far, as to how much Limbaugh was contributing financially, but it doesn't appear to be all that much. Sources familiar with the bid told the Post-Dispatch that they didn't anticipate any problems replacing Limbaugh. A statement from Checketts, printed in the Post-Dispatch, read:
"Rush was to be a limited partner -- as such, he would have had no say in the direction of the club or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations," Checketts said in a statement. "This was a role he enthusiastically embraced. However, it has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions, endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him."
Which actually conflicts with the original impression Rush gave in a public statement after his partnership in the bid became known. Without saying much more, Limbaugh stated that "if we prevail we will be the operators of the team"--which seemed to mean he would be slightly more than a silent partner.
If Limbaugh didn't account for that much money, it wasn't such a big deal to part ways.
3. The criticism came from all angles. Other owners, the head of the NFL Players Association, and players themselves all spoke up against Limbaugh. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was less than sympathetic in a news conference, saying Rush's past comments about Donovan McNabb getting more credit than he's due because of his skin color didn't exactly sit well with him, the implication being that the NFL might be better off without Rush around. The utter pervasiveness of the criticism of Rush made the situation untenable.
4. Nobody really stood up for Rush. Only a few people said, "It's a free country--let Rush do what he wants. I have no problem with this." His potential involvement in the NFL was widely panned by both sports and political commentators, and the general media narrative around the story seemed to be: "Limbaugh has the right to say what he wants about whatever he wants...and in a free country, that has consequences. The NFL and the Rams are equally free to shoot him down just because they don't like him."
So the defense of Limbaugh amounted to a (perhaps slightly vindictive) tautology, the premise and conclusion of which were: "Rush Limbaugh can make people dislike him, but then they will dislike him." Not exactly compelling or sympathetic.
5. Prospective owners have to get approved by 24 of the league's 32 front offices. With two owners already weighing in less than favorably, the prospects of getting approved seemed bleak.
6. This would have been bad for Limbaugh, too. Almost every time he said something controversial on the radio--which is every day--there would be a story about it in the sports media, including what members of the NFL community had to say in reaction. That kind of attention could have handcuffed Limbaugh in the long run, and why would he want to deal with that? Anything that threatens Limbaugh's freedom to say what he wants threatens his ultimate bread and butter, and probably his essence as a human being.
So it's not that surprising. For better or worse, this wasn't about free speech. It was about money, and when the criticism started to roll in, Limbaugh's presence was more of a minus than a plus.
While lots of Rams fans sure wouldn't have liked it, watching Limbaugh as part-owner of an NFL team would have been kind of fun. We know he likes football, and he may have been the consummate professional. But every time he said something controversial on the radio, it would ripple through the sports world as low-hanging fruit for the media. And that's something we'll all be missing out on.