Tom Ricketts says Cubs will keep promise, follow plan set by local Muslim group

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Tom Ricketts answers media questions at the Under Armour Performance Center, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs, in Mesa, AZ. | John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts apologized Monday for the “pain” caused by Joe Ricketts’ racist emails and promised the Cubs will make an effort to mend their relationship with the Muslim community.

That healing process will, he said, include steps outlined by the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago).

CAIR-Chicago asked the Cubs to support three community initiatives, including anti-bullying efforts, diversity and inclusion training, and scholarships. It also proposed a plan for the “participation of notable Muslims in Cubs and Wrigley Field tradition” and to create anti-hate PSAs featuring Cubs personnel that would attempt to raise awareness against racism.

“We’ll follow through on all that stuff,” Tom Ricketts said reporters in a news conference Monday at Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona. “We’ll make sure our actions follow our words … We’re going to make sure that we follow up on this.”

Ricketts also reiterated that the contents of his father’s email exchanges do not represent the Cubs’ beliefs, and that he was “surprised” when he first read his father’s emails.

“Those aren’t the values our family was raised with,” Ricketts said. “I’ve never heard my father say anything remotely racist.

“We know who my father is and we know that he’s not the person that those emails try to make him to be.”

In some of the emails leaked by the website earlier this month, Joe Ricketts engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric. He also forwarded a joke where the punchline was the n-word, calling it a “great laugh,” and responded “I like this” to an email that shared an argument on why saying the n-word and other derogatory terms weren’t racist.

Tom Ricketts also continued to distance the team from his father, who founded the TD Ameritrade brokerage. Tom Ricketts said Joe Ricketts is not part of the trust that owns the team though he did initially approve the cash portion of the family’s leveraged $845 million purchase of the Cubs in 2009.

“The dollars that were ultimately used to purchase the club were created by the wealth that [Joe Ricketts] created,” said Tom Ricketts, who also apologized to the players for the “distraction” caused by his father. “But like I said, this has always been an effort by myself and my siblings and he has no operating position or economic interest in the team at all.”

Ricketts took the first step in fixing the Cubs’ relationship with Muslims 10 days ago when he and Julian Green, Cubs vice president of communication, met with the leaders of several local Muslim groups. During the 90-minute closed-door meeting, the group discussed the history of Muslims in America and Chicago and what the impact of Joe Ricketts’ emails had on their community.

On Monday, the executive director of CAIR-Chicago, Ahmed Rehab, said he’s “encouraged” by the Cubs’ commitment to make amends.

“The Cubs are taking a significant step forward and will use the power of their brand and voice to fight Islamophobia, racism and bigotry,” Rehab said in a written statement. “This active commitment to our shared values of Everybody In is not only great for the brand, but for all fans, for the affected communities and for our city as a whole.”

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