Well, this certainly is rich.
The franchise that was purchased with the funding of a man who holds anti-Muslim views is speaking out against a fan at Wrigley Field who flashed a sign sometimes used by white supremacists.
The Cubs denounced the white fan, who made the gesture while NBC Sports Chicago’s Doug Glanville, who is black, was giving an on-air report during the team’s game against the Marlins on Tuesday night.
“An individual seated behind Mr. Glanville used what appears to be an offensive hand gesture that is associated with racism,’’ Cubs executive Crane Kenney said in a statement. “Such ignorant and repulsive behavior is not tolerated at Wrigley Field. We are reviewing the incident thoroughly because no one should be subjected to this type of offensive behavior.”
The Cubs say they have identified the fan and will ban him from Wrigley.
I don’t recall a similar ban on billionaire Joe Ricketts after the release of his racist and Islamophobic emails several months ago. I do recall Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, his son, declaring that Joe Ricketts’ emails didn’t represent the team’s views. I also recall that Tom Ricketts said the emails were not the father he knows.
“He realizes those statements cause pain,” Tom Ricketts said in February. “But I love him. He’s my dad. He’s a great man.”
Here’s what the great man, who funded his kids’ purchase of the team, wrote in one of those emails, which was released by Splinter News:
“Christians and Jews can have a mutual respect for each other to create a civil society. As you know, Islam cannot do that. Therefore we cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society. Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.’’
If it turns out that the fan did indeed mean to flash a white-power sign to a Chicago TV audience on Tuesday, I wonder if Tom Ricketts will come to the man’s defense once he gets to know him. Maybe the fan’s “a great man,’’ too.
If his upside-down “OK’’ sign, which has been requisitioned by white supremacists, was meant to send a racist message, did he feel emboldened knowing some of the poisonous views Old Man Ricketts holds? That might be a stretch, but it’s funny how many cockroaches crawl out after the first one emerges.
At a minimum, this is what the Cubs can expect whenever there’s a whiff of racism associated with the franchise.
In a broad sense, I don’t know what the right answer is for dealing with incidents like the one that happened at Wrigley on Tuesday night. Is it better to ignore the disgusting behavior of a small group of people and not bring attention to their ideas? Or is it better to bring the ugliness into the open and denounce it, hoping that sunlight will educate more people about the evils of the world?
In this particular case, the Cubs had no choice. Given Joe Ricketts’ views, the team had to send a firm message that white supremacy has no place at Wrigley. The unspoken part of Kenney’s condemnation was, “I’m speaking out in case anyone might be looking at us through old Joe’s lens.’’ It’s what the Cubs will be dealing with for as long as the Ricketts family owns the franchise.
It’s a no-win situation, and the Ricketts kids can blame it on their dad. They’ll continue to try to distance themselves from a 77-year-old man who holds some unpleasant opinions, but they have to know it’s impossible. The only reason the four Ricketts children own the team is because of Joe Ricketts’ money.
There’s an outside chance that the fan didn’t mean the hand sign in the way it has been portrayed. Unlikely, but possible. However, it’s the same sign a white supremacist made after allegedly killing 51 people at two mosque shootings in New Zealand on March 15. In the case of the Cubs, it doesn’t matter what the fan’s gesture meant. One of the first things that came to my mind when Kenney denounced the fan was Joe Ricketts’ emails. That’s the legacy of those leaked missives.
We can leave open the possibility that an out-of-touch billionaire doesn’t speak for a sizable group of people. And we can allow room for the possibility that a fan’s hand gesture on a cool night at Wrigley Field has been misinterpreted. But I don’t think so on either count.
Some stains are exactly what they appear to be.