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It's Rush Hour on ESPN Show

Panelists on 'Sunday NFL Countdown' denounce Limbaugh, who resigned after his controversial remarks on last week's program.

October 06, 2003|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Rush Limbaugh is gone, and for the four remaining on-air personalities of ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" show, it's good riddance.

"Rush Limbaugh is known for the divisive nature of his rhetoric," Tom Jackson said on Sunday's show. "He creates controversy. What he said [about Donovan McNabb] is the same kind of thing he has said on radio for years.

"Let me just say it was not our decision to have Rush Limbaugh on this show."

The previous Sunday, Limbaugh said of the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback:

"Sorry to say this, I don't think he has been that good from the get-go. 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, black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Limbaugh resigned from ESPN on Wednesday night.

Jackson, host Chris Berman and commentators Steve Young and Michael Irvin all expressed various degrees of anger on Sunday's show.

Also, they admitted they all missed the severity of Limbaugh's comments.

"I've asked myself a thousand times, how could this happen, how could we miss it?" Jackson said.

Said Berman: "I'm the host of the show, and I missed it. I've been kicking myself all week. We all missed it."

Fox and CBS devoted a considerable amount of time to the Limbaugh issue on their NFL pregame shows Sunday, offering mostly critical comments.

CBS' Jim Nantz said, "ESPN knew what it was getting into when it hired Rush. Rush was not hired for his vast football knowledge."

Fox's Terry Bradshaw said, "Trust me when I say this. If I, or anyone on this show, were to step over the line, it would not take a day or a week for someone to chastise me. It would happen quickly and openly right here live on this network."

Fox's James Brown, however, said, "Tom Jackson has taken some unfair hits this week. I say don't blame the victim."

Said Jackson: "Much has been made about the fact that we did not speak out this week. No one prevented us from speaking. We chose this forum, our show."

Jackson was the most outspoken Sunday.

"I have seen replay after replay of Limbaugh's comments with my face attached along with those of my colleagues," he said, "comments that made us very uncomfortable at the time, although the depths and the sensitive nature of them came too late to reply."

Said Berman: "It angers me. I'm angry for all the hurt, angry for hurt of the show, for us, sure, but more for you, the viewer. I'm angry for the hurt it caused African Americans. I'm angry for the hurt it has caused all people. I've never looked at Donovan McNabb as a black quarterback."

Said Jackson: "A player in this league who has a young son called me and his son now wants to know if it is OK for blacks to play quarterback. Rush Limbaugh's comments could not have been more hurtful.

"He was brought in to talk football, and he broke that trust. Rush told us that the social commentary for which he is so well known would not cross over to our show. He said instead he would represent the intelligent, passionate fan. We know few fans, passionate or otherwise, who see Donovan McNabb, a three-time Pro Bowler, with two championship game appearances, being somehow artificially hyped because of the color of his skin.

"The fact that Donovan McNabb's skin color was brought up at all was wrong. Especially in the context of the brotherhood of this show."

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