ST. LOUIS – Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from a group seeking to buy the St. Louis Rams. Limbaugh was to be a limited partner in a bid led by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts, but Checketts said in a statement Wednesday that Limbaugh’s participation had complicated the effort. The group will move forward without him.
Checketts said he will have no further comment on the bid process. Limbaugh did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent late Wednesday seeking comment on Checketts’ decision.
The move was hailed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the most vocal critics of Limbaugh’s bid.
“It is a moral victory for all Americans — especially the players that have been unfairly castigated by Rush Limbaugh,” Sharpton said in a statement. “This decision will also uphold the unifying standards of major sports.”
Sharpton added in a telephone interview that major sports leagues shouldn’t welcome owners who are “divisive and incendiary.”
Every major pro sports franchise has dealings with its community, he said. “It’s unfair for taxpayers to be underwriting people who denigrate them,” he said.
Limbaugh said on his radio show earlier Wednesday that he had been inundated with e-mails from listeners who supported him in the bid.
“This is not about the NFL, it’s not about the St. Louis Rams, it’s not about me,” Limbaugh said. “This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative.
“Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have.”
Limbaugh’s bid ran into opposition from within the image-conscious NFL on Tuesday when Colts owner Jim Irsay said he would vote against the radio personality. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the commentator’s “divisive” comments would not be tolerated from any NFL insider.
The league tries to avoid getting snared in controversial issues outside sports, which has caused Limbaugh trouble in the past. In 2003, he was forced to resign from ESPN’s Sunday night football broadcast after saying of Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb: “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”
The Rams had no comment, reissuing a statement from Oct. 5 in which owner Chip Rosenbloom said a review of the team’s ownership was under way and the club will make an announcement when it’s over.
Checketts, the chairman of SCP Worldwide, announced that Limbaugh had been dumped toward the end of a news release.
“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,” Checketts said. “As such, we have decided to move forward without him and hope it will eventually lead us to a successful conclusion.”
Checketts said Limbaugh would have not had any say in the direction of the franchise “or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations.”
Before getting dropped, Limbaugh said he had no intention of backing out.
“I’m not even thinking of caving,” he said. “I am not a caver. Pioneers take the arrows. We are pioneers. It’s a sad thing that our country, over 200 years old now, needs pioneers all over again, but we do.”