Last week, when conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh lost his bid for partial ownership of the St. Louis Rams, many adjectives were used to describe his possible state of mind. Several news outlets commented on his anger and frustration, while the right-wing had a field day with the ‘injustice’ of it all. But perhaps the most precise word to summarize Mr. Limbaugh’s reaction to news that his inflammatory commentary of the past excluded him from ownership in the NFL is pure and simple “fear.” Fear that activism is alive and well, and fear that activism worked.
Almost as quickly as news broke of Limbaugh’s football dreams, I was contacted by members of the NFL Players Association over concern they had regarding ownership from a man who previously equated the NFL to a game between rival gangs the Bloods and the Crips. A man who in 2003 stated that Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media just wanted to see a Black athlete succeed. And a talk show host whose controversial, divisive statements about African Americans and other minorities had no place in a sport that was primarily comprised of Black players and epitomized unity.
Without hesitation, I drafted a public letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, voicing the shared apprehension that I and other progressive individuals ready to move beyond antiquated and offensive rhetoric felt about the matter. We took bold and immediate action because that is precisely what this situation demanded; for silence equals acceptance. And as a result of our active engagement, we were able to halt an immense wrong from ever transpiring. Cornered and defeated, Limbaugh has resorted to once again launching personal attacks against me because, simply put, he is virtually powerless to do anything else.
In op-eds and on his radio show, the multimillionaire has inaccurately interjected my name in riots such as Crown Heights in 1991 and Freddie’s Fashion Mart of 1995. He accused me of playing a ‘leading role’ in these incidents, when in fact I urged calm and peacefully defended victims. In fact, in 2000, RNC Chairman at the time Jim Nicholson himself publicly recanted similar erroneous allegations, but unfortunately Limbaugh has not taken a lesson from the history books.
Many in conservative media continue to harp on Limbaugh’s other false claim — that I somehow created the Tawana Brawley case of 22 years past. Instead, I trusted official police reports indicating their own findings of a battered and sexually assaulted woman. That is why people like Bill Cosby put up a reward for information on the case even before I got involved. It was a civil jury that did not believe Brawley’s attorneys, just like a criminal jury didn’t believe OJ Simpson was guilty during his trial. But let’s remember that not all of those who believed OJ was innocent are racist, just like my belief in Brawley did not make me a racist. Even after paying damages of $65,000, I am still wrongfully accused of creating a hoax, when the jury itself wasn’t convinced by evidence presented by attorneys, and the facts proved that I was simply defending someone I honestly believed was a victim.
But this type of vitriol is nothing new from the Limbaughs of the world who are fearful of truth, justice and change. They are weary of our ability to step in for the downtrodden in situations like Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, the Jena 6 and in our capability to curb harmful speech from Don Imus and yes, from Rush Limbaugh.
The greatest civil rights leader of all time, Martin Luther King Jr., taught everyone that activism is a necessity to effect progress in society. MLK isn’t notorious for passing legislation or enacting laws, but for his sheer amazing ability to raise issues of concern and shed light on injustice. In no way can I, nor anyone else compare to MLK, but as a student of his, I work diligently to carry on his legacy and speak out on intolerance in whatever form it may appear — and that includes Limbaugh’s dangerous words.
Despite the outright lies that Limbaugh and others may spread, I and the National Action Network will not cease in our unwavering duty to speak for the voiceless. And I take comfort in the notion that the people will continue to turn to us if and when they need assistance, for people reach out to those that are effective.
I can proudly attest that we were indeed victorious in this most recent incident of rectifying a potential wrong and garnering justice. Activism once again prevailed; awareness once again succeeded. And perhaps most importantly, we collectively proved that more involvement is needed in a climate of hate created by certain entities on the right. It’s time for even more renewed activism — for it works.
Rush Limbaugh and others be very very afraid.