Rush Limbaugh, Donovan McNabb, and "A little social concern": reflections on the problems of Whiteness in contemporary American sport

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Abstract

This article offers an interpretative case study of the controversy that surrounded Rush Limbaugh' s comments about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb near the beginning of the 2003 National Football League season. Informed by critical race theory, the analysis argues that Limbaugh' s remarks were a textbook example of how the rhetoric of Whiteness operates to assert the cultural normativity of the dominant group and legitimate its privilege. That sport leaders and commentators roundly rejected Limbaugh' s comments and pushed for his removal gives the impression that the sporting establishment was unusually progressive and enlightened on these issues. However, closer reading and basic content analysis suggests that the ideas mobilized to put Limbaugh in his place-specifically those involving the supposed sanctity and colorblindness of sport-were in many ways complicit with Limbaugh' s own White supremacy. Consideration of the market forces that allowed Limbaugh' s hiring implicates sport even further. Lessons for Whiteness theory, White supremacy, and the relationships between them are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Sport and Social Issues
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2007

Keywords

  • Colorblindness
  • Critical race theory
  • Sport culture
  • Whiteness studies

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