Kenney: Cubs Ban Fan From Wrigley Field

The fan used a hand gesture associated with racism.

Bernstein & McKnight Show
May 08, 2019 - 11:12 am

(670 The Score) After an investigation, the Cubs have banned from Wrigley Field for life a fan who made an alleged racist hand gesture in the background of a black reporter's live on-air hit during their game Tuesday, president of business operations Crane Kenney said in a statement Wednesday evening.

The incident occurred before the start of the bottom of the third inning, according to video from the telecast. A fan behind NBC Sports Chicago broadcaster Doug Glanville made an upside-down "OK" sign, a symbol that white supremacists have appropriated. The Cubs believe the fan made the sign with malicious intent.

The team reached out with multiple phone calls to the fan in an attempt to gain more information, but he didn't respond. The Cubs chose not to publicly reveal the fan's name.

The Cubs were made aware of the incident by television viewers who pointed it out to the team on social media accounts, Kenney said earlier in the day in an interview on the Bernstein & McKnight Show. A group of team officials then met after the conclusion of the Cubs' win against the Marlins, and the organization sent out a press release at 12:56 a.m. that it was investigating the incident and "offensive" gesture.

"We reached the conclusion that it's more likely than not that this person was using that hand signal as a racist way of interfering with everyone's enjoyment of the game," Kenney said.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called the incident and symbol "truly disgusting." The gesture has also long been associated with what many call the "circle game," but the Cubs weren't buying that line of reasoning, Kenney said.

"Whether this person is going to ultimately say he intended it, that he was playing the circle game or some other stunt, the judgment to use that in connection with a respected reporter who happens to be African-American doing his job -- and we love Doug and he does an amazing job for all of us -- that connection ... coincidence is not going to fly here," Kenney said. 

The Cubs believe the burden of proof fell on the fan to prove he wasn't using the gesture with racist intent, Kenney said. 

"It's a place of inclusiveness," Kenney said of Wrigley Field. "It's a place where everyone is welcome. 

"We're in a weird space these days. We're all living in a different era. For reasons I think we all know, the polarization of rhetoric and conversation -- not to get too geopolitical on everyone -- it's become a very tense world, it seems, with the rhetoric some people use. I think we're erring on the side of protecting the enjoyment of all fans whether they’re viewers watching the broadcast or folks in the park. I think we'll probably be erring on the side of if this is just really, really poor judgment on this person's part, it's still probably going to lead to their permanent expulsion from the ballpark. Again, we don't do that lightly.

"In our view, the burden of proof would be on him. I'm trying to think of a way he could convince us this is not what we all think it is."