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EDITORIAL: This time, the Cubs get response to racism right

Doug Glanville is an in-game reporter for NBC Sports Chicago. | Screen grab from Tuesday broadcast

The Cubs did the right thing Wednesday by indefinitely banning a fan who’d made a hand gesture that team officials believe was intended to be seen on TV “in a racist way.”

The fan made the gesture on air behind NBC Sports Chicago reporter Doug Glanville, an African American, during the broadcast of Tuesday’s game against the Marlins. If the intent was to be racist, as it is when the gesture is used by white supremacists, that’s intolerable.

That said, we were disappointed when the Cubs didn’t take a stronger stand several months ago upon the release of racist and Islamophobic emails by Joe Ricketts, whose money was used to fund the purchase of the team. In February, team president Tom Ricketts said, “He realizes those statements cause pain. But I love him. He’s my dad. He’s a great man.”

We understand why Tom Ricketts feels that way; family is family. But we wish we had heard something more along the lines of what Cubs executive Crane Kenney said in his statement about the fan this week: “Such ignorant and repulsive behavior is not tolerated at Wrigley Field.” Or what Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said: The Cubs have “made clear how egregious and unacceptable that behavior is, and there’s no place for it in society, in baseball and at Wrigley Field.”

We suppose it’s possible the unnamed fan was benignly using the symbol to engage in something called the made-you-look “circle game” that was featured almost two decades ago in the TV show “Malcolm in the Middle.” But given the context, team officials didn’t think so. The same gesture was used by the self-described racist who stands accused of killing 51 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand mosques.

The ugly episode at Wrigley this week can’t help but get us thinking that President Donald Trump is empowering people like the fan to become more emboldened when it comes to expressing racist views. That’s been a problem at Wrigley before Trump — former Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones and former manager Dusty Baker said they received racist hate mail from fans during their time in Chicago, for example — but this latest incident seems particularly brazen.

Trump has called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. He has challenged a judge’s credentials on the basis of the judge’s Mexican heritage. After white supremacists held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he said there were some “very fine people” among their ranks. He has retweeted messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

At a time when our president freely dispenses bigoted comments and some lawmakers join him in supporting prejudicial policies, it’s all that much more important for institutions such as the Cubs — and the rest of us — to declare zero tolerance for such activity.

The Cubs got it right Wednesday. Let’s hope they don’t have to do something like this again.

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