BOSTON — Rush Limbaugh's bid to buy the St. Louis Rams ran into opposition within the NFL on Tuesday. Colts owner Jim Irsay vowed to vote against him, and commissioner Roger Goodell said the conservative commentator's "divisive" comments would not be tolerated from any NFL insider.
"I, myself, couldn't even consider voting for him," Irsay said at an owners meetings. "When there are comments that have been made that are inappropriate, incendiary and insensitive ... our words do damage, and it's something that we don't need."
Limbaugh has long been a hero of conservatives and villain to the left, thriving on his place in the political spectrum while establishing himself as one of the most successful broadcasters in history. But the NFL tries to avoid controversy, as Limbaugh learned in 2003 when 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."
"Divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "I would not want to see those kind of comments from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL."
Limbaugh also said, according to transcripts posted on his Web site: "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." That comment, and others, resurfaced this month when he revealed he is teaming with St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts to bid on the Rams.
Goodell said the Rams updated the league on the progress of their potential sale, but bidders were not discussed.
"They're not certain they are even sellers," New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said, adding that he expected a decision by the end of the season. "We can't speculate on potential owners because they have not brought up any names to put before ownership. It's out there, but without confirmation from the Rams or the Rosenbloom family, frankly, we don't know who the potential buyers are."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft referred questions about Limbaugh to the commissioner. Texans owner Bob McNair said anyone who meets the "normal criteria" is a candidate to own a team.
"But our vetting process is very thorough," he said.
Prominent blacks are already lining up against Limbaugh, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, who also is black, urged players to speak out against Limbaugh's bid, and several have already said they would not play for his team.
But Irsay is the first owner who has stated unequivocally he would reject Limbaugh if it comes up for a vote. Prospective owners must be approved by 24 of the league's 32 teams.
Irsay said at first that he would consult with people he respected, such as defensive lineman Dwight Freeney, coach Jim Caldwell and former coach Tony Dungy, all of whom are black. But later, the owner said he did not need to get anyone else's input before rejecting someone who made a habit of "demonizing individuals."
"I met Rush only once. He seemed like a nice guy to me and all those kind of things," Irsay said. "It's bigger than the NFL. As a nation, and as a world, we've got to watch our words and our thoughts. They can do damage."