Shock jock Limbaugh fumbles chance at $750m sports franchise

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He is the heavyweight champ of talk radio, who earns $30m (£18.4m) a year preaching robust conservatism to middle America. But Rush Limbaugh's attempt to add a storied sports franchise to his high-profile media empire has ended in failure.

Limbaugh, recently described by the White House as "the voice and intellectual force" of the Republican Party, is licking his wounds after being dropped from a consortium of businessmen vying to buy the St Louis Rams American football club.

His attempt to invest in the club, which is being sold for $750m, was blocked yesterday when a selection of sports administrators, players, union officials, civil rights leaders, and rival team-owners voiced concerns over his divisive, and some say racist, track record.

"His involvement... has become a complication and a distraction," said Dave Checketts, the businessman behind the bid. "We have decided to move forward without him."

Limbaugh has occasionally upset race-relations campaigners with comments about American football. In 2003, he resigned as an ESPN pundit after claiming that the star player Donovan McNabb owed his lofty reputation to the fact that "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well".

In 2007, he used his daily radio show to compare a violent incident in a game involving two ethnically diverse teams to an encounter between the Cripps and the Bloods, two notorious black street gangs.

Both incidents were this week cited by opponents of Limbaugh's attempt to buy St Louis.

The attention had begun to worry the owners of the 31 other NFL clubs, who are famously protective of their sport's image, and have the right to block takeovers of clubs. The Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay described Limbaugh's track record as "incendiary and insensitive".

True to form, Limbaugh did not take the snub quietly. "This is not about the NFL, it's not about the St Louis Rams, it's not about me," he told listeners. "This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country... to destroy conservatism."