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Rush to Judgment

Aired October 1, 2003 - 11:56   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've been waiting for Donovan McNabb to go back to the podium. He is at the microphones right now, and he'll be taking questions, and I think we want to listen in to see if he's going to be asked about the Rush Limbaugh comments.
DONOVAN MCNABB, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES QUARTERBACK: You know, it's something, obviously, that I have been going through ever since I was young, you know, through high school, through college, and through the NFL, that you figure that it would have been over by now.

But obviously if he -- the guy that said it on TV, then I'm sure everyone else has thought about it or it's on their mind. So I'm sure he's not the only one that feels that way. But it's somewhat shocking to actually hear that on national TV, you know, from him. There's nothing that I can sit here and say it's going affect me. It's not something I can sit here and say it won't bother me. But you know, I look at the big picture, and I say what about the other guys who are playing in the league who are African-American quarterbacks? Or the kids that are in college who have dreams of playing on this level? Or kids in high school who are, you know, using all of the African- American quarterbacks as role models idolizing us?

Now when you say that, you know, now do they feel well? If I go out here and say that I'm a Donovan McNabb or I'm a Daunte Culpepper or Michael Vick, that you know, I will be looked down upon because of the color of my skin, you know? And that's sad because you have kids that are African-American. You have kids that are Caucasian, Asian kids. You know, you have kids all across the world who wear our jerseys, you know, kids who watch the things that we do and say, you know, he's the best player in the league, I want to be just like him.

But when you sit there and pinpoint a guy because of the color of his skin and not really pretty much on just his performance, or the things he's been able to do while he's been in the league, that kind of makes you look like, you know, you're the bad guy.

QUESTION: Donovan, do you feel like Rush Limbaugh owes you a personal apology?

MCNBABB: You know, I look at this situation and I say, I don't need a personal apology, you know. What is that going to do? You've already said it. You've thought about it. So you had time to think about it before you said it. So when you say it, what's I'm sorry going to do? You know, there's a lot of people who are probably sorry for the mistakes they've made but have never been forgiven for it.

So it doesn't bother me. I mean, what he said, it's over. It's not really over, but there's nothing you can do to change it.

QUESTION: Donovan, is it a distraction for you?

MCNBABB: It's not a distraction. It's motivated me all my life. But I'm sure it will motivate all of the other players who don't play the quarterback position.

It's not really pinpointing the quarterback position, it's pinpointing all the players in the league, and not only in the NFL, but in basketball, baseball, you know. If you're an African-American player in any sport, you're talking to us.

QUESTION: Donovan, does it both you that ESPN would have somebody whose views are pretty much like that, a non-football person, as part of the pregame show?

MCNBABB: You know, that's really not my decision, because that's something they obviously felt was the right thing to do. So the decision they made to having him there was I guess they felt good about it. I mean, he's made some good comments, you know, and he's made some bad ones. It's just that this one here will continue to carry on.

But you know, my thing is, you know, after it was said, no one was pretty much there, you know, to defend myself or defend the other players, you know. You know, so I kind of worry about that aspect of it.

I'm sure he's not the only -- I wouldn't say that he represents the way a lot of people think. I'm sure that he's not the only one that has thought about it or the only who felt the need if -- you know, if I got the chance to say it I would have said it, too.

QUESTION: Donovan, when you say that nobody was there and that concerns you a little bit, that nobody was there after Mr. Limbaugh made those comments, are you suggesting that the other commentators on the set with Mr. Limbaugh should have stepped up and tackled the issue of race in the context in which he presented it?

MCNABB: Well, it definitely should have been tackled. You know, there were comments about my performance in the past couple of years and why is it that, you know, I am looked upon this way because of the NFC championship appearances and the success that I've had. But there were never any comments about being an African-American quarterback and why the league maybe uplifting, you know, my stature because I'm a black quarterback and, you know, not because of my performance.

QUESTION: Michael Irvin was sitting right there. Would you have expected him to say something about the race issue?

MCNABB: Well, I'm not here to point out any of the guys. You know, there should have been a comment made, you know, maybe from the camera guy. You know, somebody should have jumped up there and said something, you know. So, I'm not pinpointing anyone. You know, I'm a Michael Irvin fan, a Steve Young fan, Tom Jackson, you know, but somebody should have said something to the race issue.

QUESTION: Just on a broader scale, though, the fact that ESPN, when we go to them for comment, they said, hey, you know, we brought him in her to say stuff, and that's what he's doing. Ratings are up. I mean, should they have a more tactful response than that? It seems like you're not too thrilled with how they responded to it.

MCNABB: Well, if I had made a comment about something like that, and I said, well, I was brought in here, you know, for things like that, then I'm sure that wouldn't fly, either. So -- I mean, obviously, when you're on TV, you know, everyone is watching. You have to watch what you say. I mean, you can be very critical of things. You have your own opinion. No one is going to, you know, put you on a pedestal or sit there and point fingers at you because of your opinion, because you're entitled to it.

But anytime you tackle an issue that has obviously been a problem for us for so many years, you know, people don't talk about it. And if you have no answer for it, you know, don't think that it's going to just die out. It's going to continue on.


QUESTION: Are you still amazed at all that, even aside of the race issue, that you've gotten so much criticism from everywhere?

MCNABB: Well, you know what? Again, like I told you before, it's funny to me, because, yes, we -- no, we didn't play well in the first two weeks. And I was the first to tell you that I didn't play well. I personally didn't play well. Well, I mean, it's a long season, but, you know, to go to that aspect of it is beyond. And it's an issue in which, you know, as a player, as a human being and as a family man, you know, you don't want to, you know, step on that issue. And when you do, then obviously, you know, someone is going to bring it up again. It's going to be brought up again. It's going to continue on.

Again, my worries were not about what was said, but just what about the people, you know, who were watching? You know, what about them? You know, what about, you know, the African-American homes, people in the African-African homes, you know, the kids, the parents? You know, when they hear something like that, you know, it's on national TV, on ESPN, what do they think?


MCNABB: I haven't. I haven't, because, you know, again, it's not an issue that I'm going to sit and, you know, make it become a distraction for what we want to get done over here. So, it's nothing to which I'm going to sit here and have it written in my locker or have it, you know, at home and I'll continue to watch it. You know, it's nothing to that effect. You know, what was said, well, it's over. You know, it's been said. You know, so, I'm going to focus on my job here and what I need to do. And that's the way I'm going to continue to approach this deal.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) plain old racist, and what do you think should happen with Rush Limbaugh on this show?

MCNABB: I'm not here to judge anyone. You know, so, what was said was said. You guys make the decision if you feel it was racist or what should happen to him. You know, I'm a football player. I'm going to continue to play football, you know, with my skin color and, you know, with my muscular build, as you guys say, with my wife at home, you know.

So, you know, I'm a football player, and that was my dream. My dream was to play football, to play in the NFL, and I'm going to continue to fulfill my dream.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Rush is going to be here tomorrow (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Would you like to see him come to the Eagles' practice and have him say it to you face-to-face? And what would you say to him in response?

MCNABB: He doesn't have to come see me. You know, that's not something that I would stress or anything, because I really don't want to see him. You know, you could say you're sorry all you want to, it doesn't matter. It's been said.

So, you know, again, my focus is to play football, continue to get better and better each opportunity I have to step out on the field, and hopefully lead this team to a Super Bowl.


QUESTION: Do you feel that you have gotten a free ride from the media because of your race? Or do you think the opposite is true in some ways?

MCNABB: A free ride from the media in Philadelphia? That's a good one. That's a good one. You know, when you play the quarterback position in any level, you know, obviously people are going interview you, you know. And, you know, your performance obviously entails what they want to talk about or what they want to write about. So, you know, I'm not going to sit here and press the race issue, you know, from up here, because, again, that's none of my concern. I play football, and that's the way I'm going to continue to approach it.

QUESTION: Donovan, how many times in your career has racism or prejudice touched your career or your life?

MCNABB: All of my life. All of my life. But, you know, again, it didn't bother me then, because it's not going to stop anything -- me from fulfilling my dream. Obviously, my dream is to become a great human being, you know, a person that, you know, people can rely on and trust, and obviously a good football player.

QUESTION: Has (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Limbaugh attempted to contact you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) attempted or contacted you?

MCNABB: I haven't checked my cell phone lately, so no. You know, I haven't had any word that he tried to contact me.

QUESTION: Will this affect you as far as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is concerned (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MCNABB: No, you know, because, again, it's not going to affect anything that I do. You know, if people will want to interview, then I'll sit down and talk about it. You know, if they want me to come on "Playmakers," I'll be on "Playmakers." You know, I'm still looking for my shot at "Playmakers," but, I mean, it's something that is not going to bother me. It's not going to bother me at all.

QUESTION: What was your opinion of Rush Limbaugh before this, not necessarily as a football commentator, but just as a general -- whatever he is?

MCNABB: Again, you know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you know. So, they've hired him. So, they feel that, you know, obviously he can provide a little spark for them. You know, Dennis Miller was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for Monday night for a spark. You know, people get hired for the issues like that.

QUESTION: But, I mean, on his radio show, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your cup of tea?

MCNABB: No, I'm not going to sit here and try to battle him or, you know, have a debate or anything. But, you know, again, it doesn't bother me. You know, what was said has been said. I guess that's the way he feels. And, again, I'm sure a lot of other people have thought about it. So, you know, I'm a football player. I'm fulfilling a dream right now.

QUESTION: Do you feel you were being used? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Sunday morning. Do you think you were being used?

MCNABB: Used in what type of way?

QUESTION: For ratings. I mean, it was hardly spontaneous.

MCNABB: Well, I hope I haven't been used for ratings. But, you know, it's funny -- I'm trying to figure out why it was even brought up, you know, and I really have no answers for that. You know, is it because of the money? Is it because, you know, again, what Iverson said, you know, we're looked upon as not human beings because we're getting paid, you know, that much money? You know, it's something which I'm still looking for answers for it. I mean, if it's ratings, did the ratings go up? No comment, huh?

HARRIS: Well, he says he's just a football player. He's proving to be a diplomatic one this morning.

You're seeing here Donovan McNabb, the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, getting enough questions on only one topic today in this regularly-scheduled press conference there in Philadelphia. All of the questions coming about the comments made by commentator Rush Limbaugh on an ESPN sports program over the weekend, and basically Donovan McNabb here saying that suggestions that he basically is getting the respect and accolades he's getting because he's black and not because he's a good quarterback he says is something that does not surprise him. He's heard that sort of thing all of his life, and it's been the kind of thing that has motivated him all of his life.

He says that Rush Limbaugh is not the only person -- may not be the only person who thinks that sort of thing. However, he says he was not surprised to hear that he thought that, but he was surprised to hear about it on national television.

And he said his No. 1 concern was not for himself, but for kids, particularly African-Americans kids who may have actually heard these comments.

And if you want to hear those comments for yourself, here they are right now.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, "SUNDAY NFL COUNTDOWN": Donovan McNabb is regressing. He's going backwards. And my -- I'm 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. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.


HARRIS: And that is what has stirred up all of the controversy. And you will notice that there were no facts or stats mentioned in that statement.

Of course, we'll have more coverage of this throughout the day, because it is generating so much talk. So stay tuned right here on the network.


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