Bernstein: No Good Answers For Ricketts' Racism

Joe Ricketts' poisoned worldview raises many alarming questions.

Dan Bernstein
February 05, 2019 - 3:20 pm
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(670 The Score) It's pretty clear that the man who provided the money to purchase the Cubs is a racist and Islamophobe, and it also looks like there's not much the current Cubs ownership can do about it.  

Emails sent by Joe Ricketts were published by Splinter News on Monday, providing an ugly picture of an old billionaire happy to share all kinds of false memes and cruel and unfunny jokes with like-minded friends, not only proudly demeaning Islam but also other ethnicities. He appears to be an Obama birther too, engaging in bizarre conspiratorial fever dreams that identify the former president as a secret Muslim bent on undermining white America.  

Ricketts issued a statement of regret, denying that the trove of communications represented how he actually thinks. 

"I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system," he said. "I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong."

That attempt landed with a thud, however, as did a similar statement from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Joe's son.

"Let me be clear: the language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society," Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "My father is not involved with the operation of the Chicago Cubs in any way.​"  

The problem with those comments is in an immediate factual inaccuracy and a misleading feint. Those views have far too much of a place in our society, actually, recently given more mainstream normalization than could have once been imagined, too often spewing from the very top of our government. And nobody alleges that Joe is operating the Cubs, but everyone knows he bought them because he said so and explained why and how.

And that has been it from the team to this point, as the Cubs seem to be waiting and monitoring reaction, to see if those comments suffice as the story unfolds.

It's not good enough for Kamran Hussain, the president of the Muslim Community Center of Chicago. In an open letter to the Ricketts family, Hussain decried their patriarch's comments and content as "incendiary and hate-filled."

"I must inform you that your statement has fallen short and has the ring of PR or 'damage control' for most Muslims and others of good conscience in Chicago," Hussain wrote. "It would be truly lamentable if the Cubs organization becomes stained by racism and bigotry in the same manner that marred the ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers by Donald Sterling and the Cincinnati Reds by Marge Schott."

Hussain invited the Ricketts family to attend a meeting with Muslim leaders and fans "in order to take accountability and make amends in a more genuine, meaningful and demonstrative manner that will have an effect far beyond any mere statement."

Chicago's Council on American Islamic Relations also commented, calling the Ricketts emails "alarming and highly disappointing" and "shocking and repugnant." Executive director Ahmed Rehab noted that, "The Cubs need to act hard and fast to ensure Chicagoans that they embrace our values of anti-bigotry."

It's how they act that remains in question and how to make it matter if they decide they want to. Any kind of outreach can look like a disingenuous make-good, a cynical paint-by-numbers apology tour that goes through the motions as the news cycles roll toward spring training. But the Cubs may need to do more than they have to get some semblance of control of a bad story still capable of gaining more traction.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to dunk on the family, employing references to multiple generations for a reason.  

"Joe Ricketts once said that I do not share his values,” Emanuel wrote. "Truer words were never spoken. The ignorance and intolerance he has espoused are not welcome in Chicago. Those are not the values I learned from my parents, and those are not the values Amy and I have instilled in our children."

Emanuel really twists the knife there, implying that such thoughts are learned at home to paint the whole family with a broad brush. It's a reach to be sure, but it's entirely fair to wonder about how such feelings anywhere within their world affect the many millions of dollars spent on political causes to actively influence real policy.

Wrigley Field has been used for fundraisers to promote such efforts, and the Ricketts PAC has already entertained proposals from fringe groups fear-mongering Obama as a Muslim bogeyman. Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska, and Todd Ricketts is the finance chairman of the Trump Victory Committee, a joint effort of the Trump re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.

The questions are reasonable and real about how Joe Ricketts' twisted and poisoned worldview might infect family business beyond just his own dark thoughts. The Cubs are one of those businesses, and now they have to decide if and how to make further amends to those offended and reassure fans and business partners who today have another reason to feel differently about their respective connections to the team.

No easy fixes exist at the moment, but something more might be advised than just the first flimsy responses written by their image pros.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​