Innocent or not, casual racism has no place on the baseball diamond.
Despite the Chicago Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr. being targeted by racist taunts on Instagram less than a month ago, things appeared to be going pretty well for the team on the north side. Kris Bryant seemed to be waking up, Jason Heyward hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning last night and the Cubs now lead the NL Central with a record of 21-13.
But racism decided to reappear this week, and this time it was caught on air. This past Tuesday, as former MLB player Doug Glanville was reporting live for NBC Sports Chicago during the Cubs’ game against the Marlins, a fan was caught on camera flashing the peace sign and turning it into the “OK” sign.
For those that aren’t familiar, that symbol has multiple meanings, but lately, it’s been associated as a symbol of white power that white supremacist groups have used.
— Chad Rehan (@ChadRehan) May 8, 2019
“The incident last night is truly disgusting,” said Cubs’ team president Theo Epstein. “It gave me shivers to watch that, to see that take place at Wrigley Field. Appropriately, we’ve made clear how egregious and unacceptable that behavior is, and there’s no place for that in society, in baseball, and Wrigley Field. The person responsible for that gesture will never be welcomed back at Wrigley Field.”
Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ President of Business Operations, echoed Epstein’s statement, saying “Any individual behaving in this manner will not only be removed from the ballpark, but will be permanently banned from Wrigley Field.”
The Circle Game- A Game The Cubs Couldn’t Afford To Play
Many have disputed the intent of the gesture, saying it was simply just the “circle” game, where people try to get others to look at the circle they make with their hands. But for the Cubs, there was too much drama already circling the club for them to take the situation lightly or consider it as just a simple game.
Aside from the recent situation with Carl Edwards Jr., the Cubs dealt with a PR crisis back in February, when Islamophobic emails written and shared by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who purchased the Cubs in 2009, were discovered and released.
Ricketts, a Republican who donated millions to conservative groups and PACs, attacked Islam and Barack Obama with disgusting ignorant venom.
“Christians and Jews can have a mutual respect for each other to create a civil society.” wrote Ricketts in 2012. “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.”
He also forwarded ridiculous emails about President Obama which said he was, according to The Washington Post, “a gay prostitute and a drug mule, trafficking heroin from Pakistan to New York, before coming up with the name “Obama” to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.”
His children, who essentially own the team, reacted quickly and distanced themselves from their father’s comments. Son Pete Ricketts, who is now the governor of Nebraska, contradicted his father’s statements, urging him to research the vile statements before spreading them around.
Tom Ricketts, who is the chairman of the team, shared a statement with ESPN at the time. “We are aware of the racially insensitive emails in my father’s account that were published by an online media outlet,” said Tom. “Let me be clear: The language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society.”
In response to his family’s backlash, Joe Ricketts issued an apology on his website: “I deeply regret and apologize for some of the exchanges I had in my emails,” wrote Joe Ricketts. “Sometimes I received emails that I should have condemned. Other times I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system. I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”
With the Ricketts PR nightmare and the racist commentary hurled at Carl Edwards Jr., the team could not afford to play games with the on-air gesture, even if it was an innocent game, especially when you consider that it was done behind the back of Doug Glanville, who is Black.
As the situation unfolded, Glanville expressed his gratitude to the team for their reaction and support.
“They have reached out to me and are supportive of my role in the broadcast and continue to have a desire to uphold an inclusive environment at Wrigley Field,” said Glanville in a statement. “They have displayed sensitivity to how the implications of this would affect me as a person of color.”
Innocent or not, this should be a lesson for all of those who believe casual racism is just a game.