Cubs’ PR Nightmare Continues as Joe Ricketts’ Bigoted Emails Surface

Just about everyone has a relative whose worldview is deeply flawed and who believes just about everything they see on Facebook. They forward conspiracy-theory emails that are clearly debunked by five seconds of critical thinking, they share all manner of [insert protected group]-phobic memes and jokes, and they will tell you the world is just too damn PC if you attempt to chastise them or even gently prod them to address their ignorance.

Maybe it’s your uncle or your grandma, a cousin, someone who doesn’t know any better and whose activity probably won’t blow back on you. But it’s a different story when said sharer of bigoted information is the patriarch of the Cubs’ ownership group, Joe Ricketts. And though the family quickly went on the defensive in an attempt to distance their father from the organization, an earlier email dump makes that somewhat difficult.

This latest round of idiocy came via Splinter, the same publication that has previously shared emails detailing the Ricketts family’s highly coordinated corporate structure in a series called The Billionaire’s Inbox. As expected, Tom Ricketts leaped into traffic with a statement released to The Athletic [free] through a spokesperson Monday evening.

We are aware of the racially insensitive emails in my father’s account that were published by an online media outlet. Let me be clear: The language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society.

My father is not involved with the operation of the Chicago Cubs in any way. I am trusted with representing this organization and our fans with a respect for people from all backgrounds. These emails do not reflect the culture we’ve worked so hard to build at the Chicago Cubs since 2009.

Okay, so this is actually better than what we’ve gotten so far from the Ricketts family in a winter that has included a series of PR snafus. Maybe Cubs ownership has finally woken up after repeatedly hitting snooze and hoping the nightmare will simply end peacefully. After all, they’ve had multiple opportunities to change the course of the narrative and they’ve actively chosen to let things run on relatively untouched.

Whether it’s their financial situation, Addison Russell’s continued employment, or the increasing publicity of the family’s political ties, this hasn’t been a great run. With full understanding that a significant percentage of Cubs fans will never care about most of these issues, if they’re ever even cognizant of them in the first place, the culture Ricketts mentioned above will erode quickly if the current course is maintained.

Listen, it’s naive to think billionaires aren’t out there figuring out ways to maintain and multiply their vast wealth. The emails linked above prove that’s the case for the Ricketts family, and we’d know that to be true even if we didn’t have proof. One of the best ways to grow that money is via political donations, championing those candidates and causes that can best help you. But that stuff usually takes place behind closed doors.

The Ricketts family, however, is openly engaging in battle with Alderman Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward, even going so far as to host de facto political ads on local radio and at Cubs Convention. Todd Ricketts, who is heavily rumored to be eyeing a run at the Illinois governor’s seat in the next election, was recently appointed to run the fundraising for Donald Trump’s presidential re-election. More than just failing to separate politics from their business, the Ricketts family is embracing their political interests like they did “the target” in 2016.

And this isn’t even getting into the implications of potentially partnering with Sinclair, a broadcast outfit known for handing out must-read propaganda to its local news stations. This isn’t about which way the family leans, it’s that the Ricketts appear to be perfectly content to lean right into the headwind of bad publicity with the thought that their baseball team shields them from the slings and arrows that come with the territory.

They’ve assumed that by cultivating this collective everyman persona, they can get the same forgiveness afforded Curt Schilling’s niece or nephew. That may have even worked had so many other issues not left the Ricketts siblings too inextricably linked to their father for any sort of semantic excision to remove all traces of his involvement. Which is perhaps why daddy dearest put out a brief statement of his own via his personal website.

I deeply regret and apologize for some of the exchanges I had in my emails. 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.

This may be very sincere or it may simply be one of those deals in which he’s really just sorry he got caught. My initial assessment is that it’s the former, but I’m not going to pretend I know the elder Ricketts enough outside of his email dialogue to say he doesn’t actually feel any earnest contrition. Either way, having anything like this to apologize for in the first place is a bad look.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this right now, only that I had to commit some thoughts to the page. It’s possible this stuff just blows over and ends up as nothing but an ugly footnote in Cubs history, but this feels more like a scab that people are going to keep picking at. Unless the Ricketts are diligent about addressing and fixing what’s gone wrong, these things are going to continue to crop up and the situation will eventually become too big to walk away from. Some believe it already has.

So as the analytics guys search for the the next great metric on the field, I guess we’ll find out whether the Cubs can offer some definitive proof about how their spin rate leads to whiffs.

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