From the Monday, September 25, 2017 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: I want to share with you first the way all of this affected me, because in many ways I think that I am fairly typical. I am smack-dab in the middle of the targeted marketing the NFL does to acquire and hold an audience, right smack-dab in the middle of it. And I have to tell you, I was so sad Sunday morning when all of this started falling out.
I was not sad after Friday night when the president made his comments. And I had no doubt afterward what the reaction was going to be and I had no doubt where public opinion was gonna fall. And I had no doubt how people in the NFL from players to the commissioner to media people were gonna get it wrong, and they have, and they did.
But if you’ll permit me first, I was personally saddened. I did not watch the National Football League yesterday, and it was the first time in 45 years that I made an active decision not to watch, including my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was not a decision made in anger. It was genuine sadness. I realized that I can no longer look at this game and watch this game and study this game and pretend, you know, fantasize, everything a fan does. This whole thing has removed for me the ingredients that are in the recipe that make up a fan.
The mystique is gone. That actually started vanishing a while ago. The larger-than-life aspect of it is gone. The belief, the wish, the desire that the people in the game were the best and brightest and special, and that’s why they were there, that’s gone. And it’s been politicized. It has been politicized and corrupted, and it didn’t start this weekend. It started years ago. And if I wanted to, I could go back and get the transcripts from a few years ago on this program where I first sensed that this was happening and was going to happen.
Of course, years ago I couldn’t predict this specific event, but my sadness actually began years ago when all of the attention focused on the danger and the supposed attempt to hide all of that, not specifically just the concussions. The whole aura that that created. The sports media began to criticize that which they report on. It just became politicized. It simply just became politicized. And the people politicizing it, since we’re talking about politics, the people that politicized it are people on the left. And when that happens, things change. It’s just over.
That kind of corruption, sometimes it’s fast and overnight; sometimes it’s creeping. This has been creeping, but it took a big leap over the weekend. Why did I not watch the Steelers? Well, when I found out that the coach said a word I’m having trouble here relating. He said, “I need to protect my players.”
What? Protect your players from what? I mean, the players are who’s doing all this. What? He said (paraphrasing), “Yeah, I want to make sure they don’t have to decide that when they’re out there, they don’t have to decide whether they’re gonna take a knee or put their hand over their heart. I have to protect my players.”
So protecting players is defined by keeping them in the locker room so that they don’t have to decide. The whole notion of protecting the players just mind-boggles me, folks. Are we talking about children here? In this case, no. We’re talking about the whole reason this is happening. This all started before Donald Trump.
You know what I fear? Based on things I’ve seen, based on things I’ve read, based on things I’ve heard, it seems that a lot of people still believe “hands up, don’t shoot” happened. It seems to me — and I’ve done nothing but immerse myself in this. I have wanted to find even the most obscure comments from the most obscure players. And, folks, it seems to me that there are a lot of people who believe “hands up, don’t shoot,” Ferguson, Missouri, that Michael Brown was an innocent victim running away from a policeman and was shot in the back while having his hands up saying, “Don’t shoot.”
It didn’t happen. It is a false narrative that the media spread and spread, and the protesting agitators spread it. And it has taken on a life of its own that it never had, it was never true, and significantly a lot of people believe it and other things similar to it that didn’t happen or didn’t happen the way they were reported. But yet people believe them. And so it has become impossible for me to view life outside the lens of media. Because that’s apparently how most of life is now seen, even by average, ordinary people who are not, quote, being covered by the media. It’s still everything presented today is through the lens of media, which in itself corrupts.
And in that sense, you take a street corner, an average street corner and there’s no camera there, and things that happen happen. You put a camera on that corner when people know it’s there, and their behavior all changes. The people who know the camera is there are gonna change their behavior. I’m not arguing to remove cameras. Don’t misunderstand. And I’m not playing the violins wishing for the good old days.
I’m trying to illustrate that that’s now how people see life, is through the lens of media. And so that affects how people behave. They comport themselves in ways to be seen by cameras that will then televise what they do, people who have, quote, unquote, platforms. And it becomes an act or a call for attention or a marketing plan or what have you. And so this is especially relevant for me as the mayor of Realville. You know, I am the epitome of a realist. And it isn’t what the media shows us, more often than not.
So you have to adjust and you have to be aware that what you’re watching, what you’re seeing is actually perhaps been performed with the knowledge that others are going to see it, which then changes what would have organically, naturally happened anyway.
But all of this is just sad. Folks, the National Football League, I loved it. I mean, it was one of my top five passions, hobbies, enjoyments, as regular listeners of this program know. I’m not making this about me. I’m trying to use myself here as what I think is a pretty right-down-the-middle example of the way people are going to react. Some people are gonna have anger about it. Some people will be ambivalent about it.
But the one thing that this is not going to do… I don’t care what anybody says: The one thing this is not going to do is make the NFL more popular. It is not going to make the NFL more ingrained in our society. You just cannot have a business as large as the National Football League — which is as dependent on public dollars as it is. You simply cannot have a business that allows itself to be used to promote “social justice” when that promotion of social justice requires displays of anti-Americanism, however you want to define it.
There is no way that business is going to grow and prosper. No matter how correct the protest might be, no matter how justified it might be, that is not the place for it. It is not why people spend money watching it, patronizing it, purchasing anything to do with it. And that makes me sad. I don’t want the NFL to go away. I don’t want the NFL to become less than what it was. But it already is. You can’t watch the NFL anymore and just watch football.
You can’t watch ESPN anymore and just learn about what happened during the day in football games. You can’t. You are going to be deluged with other things that are irrelevant to why you care and why you want to watch. You can’t open the internet in the morning — newspaper, whatever. You can’t. You just can’t watch and absorb and learn about the NFL the way I used to be able to. You have to be willing to accept all the other things now that people are using it for — and it is being used.
I’ve evolved a whole bunch of theories as to what happened, what is happening, who’s gonna win in this, who’s gonna lose in this, who is doing the right thing, who’s doing the wrong thing. I’ve been running all these different scenarios. I’ve got some input from some friends I want to share with you as well. Some of them have some quite fascinating takes. The upshot of it is, though, the sad realization that something I loved — and, look, this is not old man “get off my yard” stuff.
This is not old fuddy-duddy wanting the Ward and June Cleaver days back. It’s not that. It’s just I don’t think I’m gonna look forward to NFL Sundays — and this is not new. It wasn’t until last year — maybe the year before but certainly last year — that I started playing golf on Sunday afternoons in order to get home to see the second half of the late game and maybe the Sunday night game. That never happened before. But yesterday was the first day I did not watch any of the National Football League. I just didn’t care, which made me sad. I was depressed.
It made me, as I say, very sad. So let me take a break here and we’ll come back; listen to what Trump said about this. Maybe. I think everybody knows that, probably has heard that. Where we are, who’s right, who’s wrong, what is this really all about, where is it going? These are the things that fascinate me. And, folks, you in the Stick-to-the-Issues Crowd? Remember all those days that I would talk about the NFL and I would have players on this program on Friday?
We do our Super Bowl show. I had my environmentalist wacko picks on Friday to try to mix the NFL with politics ’cause the political audience here didn’t want anything to do with that or golf or anything else. Now look. The only thing that matters in the news — in the political news — is the National Football League, and not just because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump didn’t start any of this. What is Trump doing is another aspect of this that fascinates me. There may be more to this than meets the eye.
But one of the most premier Never Trumpers throughout the 2015-16 campaign was Rich Lowry, National Review Online. He wrote and filed a piece yesterday called, “Why Trump Is President,” and his Alabama speech Friday night and his comments on the NFL is what Rich Lowry now realizes is why Trump is president. It isn’t complicated. You have a man who is very clear in his love for the country, his love of its traditions and his appreciation for it.
And on the other side you have people who are willing to portray themselves as not, whether they know it or not. There’s no way Trump loses in this. You may think so, but there’s no way he does. There’s no way the NFL wins, if this continues as it is. The ratings are down last night. The early returns — we don’t have, of course, all the metered markets, the overnights. Some of them are in. But they were down, and it’s not insignificant, the numbers that are down.
I mean, if there was anything in the NFL that was gonna arouse curiosity among people that have turned it off, it was Friday night, all day Saturday and yesterday. If it was anything — and there are a lot of media experts, Bob Costas… I’ve got the sound bite. “The ratings are gonna be very, very good last night. This is gonna cause more and more interest!” That’s the traditional view. That’s the old-fashioned media view.
“Spell my name right, and I don’t care what you say. Just get me out there. Put me in front of people, and I own it.” That’s not the way this is working. Because there is so much disgust, lack of trust, anger at the media, which provides the lens through which most people see things now. There was no way the ratings were gonna be up last night. There was no way the ratings overall were gonna be up yesterday. And people that don’t understand that and still today don’t understand it then are probably gonna have trouble understanding where America is right now, whether that’s good or bad.