Radio talk show host and media personality Rush Limbaugh has been the center of controversy at numerous points in his 15-year career as a national figure. Few people can rival Rush's ability to polarize a group; he is detested by liberals and embraced by conservatives. In September, Limbaugh was added to sports network ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown as a commentator, and on September 28, he made comments regarding Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb and the media's treatment of racial issues in sports. Conventional wisdom and the media coverage quickly claimed that Limbaugh was being a bigoted racist, but further examination reveals that this damaging assumption is completely untrue.
As listeners to his daily afternoon radio program are aware, Rush is an avid football fan, and his addition to Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN was not totally illogical. While some sportscasters present for Limbaugh's controversial remarks and numerous other sports journalists would claim (after the fact) that putting Rush Limbaugh on the sports program was an irresponsible publicity stunt on the part of ESPN, asserting that Rush was a political activist in a sportscaster suit, Limbaugh did have a strong interest in the sport, even if it had not been exercised in the professional venue of sports journalism.
In addition, this foray into sports broadcasting is not Limbaugh's only one: in 2000 he was tried out for a commentator spot on ESPN's fellow Disney property, ABC Monday Night Football, but he was passed over in favor of high brow comedian Dennis Miller.
The events of that fateful Sunday NFL Countdown episode unfolded innocently enough, but they struck many viewers and participants alike by surprise. Limbaugh and his ESPN cohorts were discussing the shortcomings of the Philadelphia Eagles offense. Commenting on quarterback Donovan McNabb and the media's treatment of him, Limbaugh stated,