Breaking off the music quote thing because this title works too well.
By now, we've all heard the story of Rush Limbaugh's failed bid to help take over the St. Louis Rams. Conservatives have tried to spin it as some sort of bias against conservatism in the NFL - as if 32 rich old white guys who once let notoriously bigoted asshat George Preston Marshall own a team could somehow have it in for right-wingers - and liberals have tried to claim a victory for race relations in sports (in a league that still has to require its teams to interview one minority candidate for its coaching jobs, lest all the coaches be white).
You're both wrong. It was a business decision. Dave Checketts, the leader of the group seeking to take over the Rams, needed money. Limbaugh has gobs of it and is from the vague St. Louis area. Makes sense. But when Checketts saw the backlash, what he saw weren't pangs of guilt over associating with a supposed racist. He saw dollar signs flying away. He saw good players refusing to play for his team because of their perception of its ownership. He saw liberal fans (probably a good chunk of St. Louis' fan base) refusing to give money to the team because of Limbaugh. And Checketts realized that he could make more money without Limbaugh than he could with him aboard. Simple as that. We can argue until the cows come home about whether Limbaugh is really racist or whether it's fair to view him as such, but it doesn't matter. In the end, the road from sports to politics runs only one way - high-profile political figures simply aren't going to fly in a business that, by its nature, has to accommodate people from all over the political spectrum. It simply wouldn't do to have half your fan base hate the owner of the team.
Which brings us to our second item today, which is Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's evolution from incompetent to evil. My beloved 'Skins are already in the aforementioned unenviable situation, except instead of having half the fan base hate the owner, in this case it's more like 75-80%. Many (myself included) blame Snyder and his organization's mismanagement of the team for the fact that the 'Skins haven't won the NFC East since 1999 - all three other teams have won at least once since then - and haven't hosted a playoff game since '99 as well, one of the longest droughts in the NFL. (In fact, when Dan Brown's most recent novel, set in Washington, came out, the D.C. sports community widely lampooned it for being set on a day when the Redskins were playing a playoff game at home. We can deal with the crazy conspiracy theory stuff, but a 'Skins home playoff game? That's too much to believe.)
Anyway, such dissatisfaction among sports fans - ever the expressive lot - are bound to lead to shenanigans at games. Signs, T-shirts, and chants decrying Snyder's ownership have begun to proliferate at 'Skins home games. So what's Snyder's reaction? He bans all signs, and has security throw out people who have the temerity to bring signs critical of Snyder. Mr. Irrelevant has one over-the-top example (bonus: fans chanting "Free Speech!" as he's being escorted out - does this happen in other cities?). Dan Steinberg has a few others.
Snyder's weak reasoning for banning signs is that they could cause injury and obstruct others' views - but if those were really reasons for banning signs it would have been done long ago. Furthermore, Steinberg's chatters report that security threw people out for chanting and wearing T-shirts. Deadspin has more if you trust them. Anecdata isn't the most trustworthy thing in the world, but it does point to a culture of discouraging dissent that Snyder has instituted at FedEx Field. If it sounds dictatorial to you, you're not the only one - The New Yorker's Steve Coll compares Snyder's reign to Zimbabwe.
Snyder, of course, can do what he wants with his property. But it does seem to suggest something that's occurring to a greater extent in our culture. Our public figures are unwilling, for the most part, to listen to people who criticize them. Admitting error has become a sign of weakness rather than of strength, and so people like Snyder who want to continue to appear "strong" can't change course. The only option, in their mind, is to control the message, and that means crackdowns on dissent in the stands.
(Fascinating side note - when the 'Skins played the Chiefs two weekends ago, the Kansas City Star refused to print the name of the team, which many Native Americans find offensive, referring to them instead as "the Washington football team." One advantage to the 'Skins' shittiness is that the row over the team's name hasn't been all that serious since the last Super Bowl. Once the 'Skins are healthy again, we're going to have to confront that name)