About Rush Limbaugh, Greg Easterbrook writes:
Limbaugh was wrong about the football. Was he wrong to be discussing race?
Limbaugh’s background is political commentary, and in politics, race should be discussed frankly regardless of where it leads you. If some person or group is being unfairly harmed because of race, or some person or group unfairly benefiting because of race, this should be said: and the more forthright the language the better, since in the political sphere we need to talk about race in open, candid terms. Plus, political opinions receive what judges call “absolute” protection under the First Amendment. If, say, Limbaugh wanted to call Al Sharpton an idiot or a fraud or anything else related to Sharpton’s politics, no one would argue with Limbaugh’s right to such opinions. Note: Sharpton would make a lousy quarterback.
But sports is primarily a form of entertainment, so the equation there is different. The first goal of the NFL, and of ESPN, is to entertain. The league and the networks want people to have fun when they watch football or think about football. If fans aren’t having fun–if Rush says things that make the audience squirm–this backfires on the league and on ESPN. Racial commentary may be necessary and even healthy in some aspects of life, but it is no one’s idea of fun, and so antithetical to the first purpose of the NFL and of ESPN. Thus the sorts of comments that might be absolutely protected when the subject is politics might be verboten when the subject is entertainment.
As I said last week, Amon’s law rules the land.
UPDATE: On the other hand, this isn’t exactly the best defense of Limbaugh’s comments!