Well, all this has been brought back to life by Spike Lee, who was out there saying — I’m going to tell you what he said. We’ve got the audio of it. He said this on ABC sports radio talking about Larry Bird, and the audio quality here is not very good so let me tell you what you’re going to hear Spike Lee say. He said, “The most overrated player of all time, I would say it would be Larry Bird. Now, Larry Bird is one of the greatest players of all time but the white media in acting like this guy never played basketball before — Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird.” White media made Bird bigger than he was. Nobody has attacked Spike Lee. In fact people have defended him as making a “culturally accurate statement.” Here, listen to Spike save himself.
LEE: The most overrated player of all time, I would say it’d be Larry Bird. Now, Larry Bird is one of the greatest players of all time, but listen to the white media, it’s like this guy was like nobody ever played basketball before him — Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird.
RUSH: Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird. All right, so this was discussed last night on Hannity & Colmes. They had Max Kellerman on. Max used to host “Around the Horn” at five p.m. Eastern on ESPN and he’s moving over to the Fox Sports Net. So there’s a little synergy going on here sort of like 60 Minutes and Viacom. They had Kellerman on, and Colmes says to him, “You know, I want to bring up the Rush thing, too. Because, first of all, Rush shouldn’t have gotten slammed for what he said, and I don’t think Spike Lee should get slammed for what he said. He made a controversial statement taken out of context. Rush was talking about the media, how the media treated Donovan McNabb. Here you have Spike talk about the media and its treatment of Larry Bird. It’s commentary in the media. So what?”
KELLERMAN: What Rush Limbaugh said, the content of what he said, what’s wrong…? What’s wrong with the media being desirous of seeing a black quarterback succeeding? I mean, if they’re an oppressed minority is succeeding, that’s a good thing —
COLMES: Spike used the phrase “white media,” and then I guess that got people upset because he said “white” as a modifier to the word “media.” But would you deny that the media is largely white?
KELLERMAN: I don’t agree with the content of Spike Lee’s sports argument, but that’s not a reason to jump, you know, to lose your head. Most people with Rush, the problem was, he said Donovan McNabb is overrated. Had he said Kordell Stewart is overrated, there may not have been the same flap.
COLMES: They were both criticizing the media that either falls in love with a player or not.
KELLERMAN: In terms of reaction to Rush versus Spike. A lot of other people could have said exactly what Rush said. What he said I found kind of interesting, actually.
KELLERMAN: But the real reason they reacted to him that way — the
RUSH: All right, so what that means when Kellerman says I “ain’t down for the struggle,” it means I’m not interested in blacks doing well; I’m not interested in the ages-old societal struggle of ending discrimination and this sort of thing when, obviously, that is just the opposite. I am for genuine achievement and merit based. I don’t want to discriminate against
KELLERMAN: I hope not. I mean it’s chilling when someone like — the fact that Rush could be, you know, ushered off the airwaves because of —
COLMES: It was wrong, totally wrong.
KELLERMAN: — because of a perfectly reasonable statement but because he’s Rush Limbaugh he’s not allowed to say it.
COLMES: But isn’t Spike Lee also a lightning rod as Rush is?
KELLERMAN: Of course.
RUSH: Talking to Max Kellerman here, is a new program starting on Fox Sports Net. This is probably the money bite. This is what we would call if we were print journalists “the nut graph.” This is where it all comes together. Sean Hannity says, “Where are the sportswriters in America that tried to crucify Rush Limbaugh? Where are they now?”
KELLERMAN: Partly that’s because ESPN is the juggernaut in sports, at least television media, and they put the kibosh on people even really commenting. The interesting thing was — and I was there at the time — you were allowed to comment on Rush early kinda if you agreed that it was a
RUSH: That is something — now, I told some people earlier, “That I didn’t know.” I didn’t know that there was a directive somewhere that I was not to be defended. I didn’t know that the word had gone out in the liberal media, the liberal sports media that if you know what’s good for you, you will not defend Limbaugh. Now, Max Kellerman who was there at the time, says that’s what was going on around inside ESPN but he doesn’t know if it was an ESPN directive. It might have come from somewhere else. Given this now, I think I know what happened here, and I don’t think it was ESPN. I could be dead wrong, but based on the first two days of this controversy they were looking forward to the next show on Sunday.
Something happened, and there’s no sense hashing it out. But I don’t suspect a giant conspiracy. I think that there’s one or two people decided that this is not something the league wanted for itself. “We’re not going to go in this direction. Don’t defend this. If you see anything about it, rip it. We don’t want to go down this road,” da-da-da-da-da-da, and ESPN is a valued contractual partner with NFL and doesn’t want to incur its wrath. So if some outside people say to ESPN, “Don’t touch this! Here’s the line on this. This is the way it’s gonna be,” then ESPN would tell their people, “Look, we value our relationship with the NFL far more than any single person, including Rush or you. So if you know what’s good for you, here’s the line.”
This is essentially what Kellerman is saying, and he was there. He is now the third ESPN guy who has told me something that — well, he’s confirmed, because these two guys I met with at ESPN said, “You’re right. Everybody inside was talking how you were right. There were other comments on that show far more critical of McNabb that got overshadowed because you threw this business about the media wanting a black quarterback to do well. That overshadowed it, but there were some people in there really worried that they had gone too far against McNabb.” But it wasn’t a big deal. We weren’t going to do it on our show. We weren’t talking about it. There was no buzz in the building about it after it happened, till Tuesday when the Philadelphia sports media went nuts. So it’s what it is. It’s a live-and-learn situation.
RUSH: Don’t get me on that argument. Now [Program Observer Bo] Snerdley is trying to get me to say there’s too much consolidation of media in sports. [Program Observer Interruption.] All right, too much power; too much consolidation of power in the sports media, sports TV. [Program Observer Interruption.] So? That may be. Nothing I can do about that. That’s the way it is right now and that’s what has to be. [Program Observer Interruption.] No, they’re not. ESPN’s not public airwaves. ESPN is cable. [Program Observer Interruption.] It doesn’t matter. See, I’m not going to sit here. I’m not complaining about anything, here. It is what it is. It was what it was. What happened, happened, you know…? [Program Observer Interruption.] Of course it’s not right, but what…? [Program Observer Interruption.] Look it, don’t misunderstand me on this. It disappointed me. I was looking so forward to this.
It wasn’t anything that was worth such a storm, but it happened, and I know why, because I know how I affect these people. Look it, let me tell you one other thing. One of the lead anchors for another network told me, “If it wasn’t this, it was something else. They were laying in wait for you. They didn’t want you in their fraternity.” All right, fine. I knew that going in. But the bottom line is it happened. You know, you gotta deal with the sports media or any other business the way it is. I can’t sit there and say [Whining.], “Well, it’s too much power consolidated. It isn’t fair.” It is what it is. There’s a way I could have made it work, and that was to not be who I am and gone in there and just been mashed potatoes and milquetoast and nobody would have had a problem, and it happen wouldn’t have been any fun and so forth.
I wasn’t going to do that. It happened. It’s not over. You got to have a long perspective, a long-term view of this stuff. But, you know, if I thought I had done something wrong or impolitic, then I’d feel badly about it, but I don’t. (Sigh.) It just is what it is. There’s no sense in sitting here and lamenting it like you want me to do. No sense. [Program Observer Interruption.] Well, I know they’re the ones that threw out the “diversity.” They’re the ones that threw out the “tolerance.” They’re the ones that claim that they’re the “open-minded” and they’re the ones that are least tolerant. The most closed-minded and most arrogant and conceited, and I knew that going in, and I knew it going in. Anyway, I’m the one that offered to resign, by the way, when all this blew up, and the reason I did is because it was causing so much hassle to people there. Now I know why. Those people were muzzled.