Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Limbaugh and the Rams

This sounds a lot like Goddell's way of saying "don't even bother:"
"I've said many times before we're all held to a high standard here, and I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about," Goodell said. "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, absolutely not."


Count Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay in the camp against Limbaugh.

"I, myself, couldn't even consider voting for him," Irsay said. "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."


Prospective owners must be approved by 24 of the league's 32 teams.

Limbaugh will almost certainly get to play the victim card here when his bid inevitably fails, but he'll have no one to blame but himself. Limbaugh's presence in the NFL is nothing but a liability to the League and it's owners.

For one thing, the business model that made Limbaugh very rich is entirely different from the NFL's.

Limbaugh caters to a niche on the radio. It's an enormous niche, but it's still a very small one compared with the audience that consumes the NFL product. Remember, when Limbaugh buys the Rams, he's not just buying athletes: he's also buying into the far more important NFL brand where he will be one of 31 other voices that keep that brand sacred. That means he'll have to be a team player, something he is incapable of doing on the radio.

The NFL doesn't cater to a niche, it caters to America, and in the last decade the league has made aggressive efforts to court Latinos and women (among other constituencies). These are the fans the NFL knows will be important to sustaining growth in the future. They're also frequent targets of Limbaugh's "humor." The NFL has spent a lot of money on advertising and sponsoring things like Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the last few years and all of that work will be instantly negated when Limbaugh makes his first PMS joke as Rams owner.

That conflict will not only be intolerable to the other NFL owners, but to his own ownership partners. This is the Catch 22 Limbaugh will find himself in if he gets the Rams: in order to be a successful owner, he will have to tone down the radio show. If he doesn't, his team will suffer. He can only manage one product at the expense of the other.

This is a stupid business decision by anyone's standards.

Limbaugh will most likely bow out quietly. His partners will realize he's dead weight to their ownership proposal and ask them to withdraw in exchange for a luxury box or something. Again, NFL owners tend to lean conservative, but this will be about business, not politics, and Limbaugh is not good business for the NFL.

MORE: Completely forgot: Although, there have not been any reports to say as much, the odds are against Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney supporting any offer from a group including Limbaugh. Rooney was a vocal supporter of President Obama -- he campaigned for him and even thanked him upon receiving the Vince Lombardi trophy after his team won last year's Super Bowl. He's now the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

But more importantly, he's also the man behind the Rooney Rule, one of the most successful hiring policies in professional sports. Rooney, as well as anyone, knows exactly what kind of damage Limbaugh can do to the NFL brand as an owner.

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