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February 20, 2019

Local Muslim leaders want action — not just words — from the Cubs in response to Joe Ricketts’ racist and Islamophobic emails

February 6, 2019

An apology won’t be enough for Muslim leaders in Chicago should they get their wish to meet as soon as next week with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts after the publication of racist and Islamophobic emails connected to family patriarch Joe Ricketts.

The elder Ricketts, 77, and his son Tom issued separate statements Monday after SplinterNews.com posted emails that showed Joe Ricketts sharing and endorsing racist and Islamophobic language, jokes and conspiracy theories.

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Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Tuesday at a news conference that it’s good the emails were published.

“It’s important to note that had these emails not been leaked, where would we be now?” Rehab said. “What kind of playing out of these sentiments would occur within the Cubs establishment against fans, against players who were Muslim who want to play on the team? Would they play out in discriminatory fashion? Would they play out in ways that would put the Muslims on the side toward marginalize and even demonize?

“And so it’s good that they’ve been leaked. But the question is: What would have happened if they weren’t? So we got the apology now that they’ve been leaked. But the positions are there. So what we need to address very clearly and concretely is what ways the Cubs establishment, beyond apologizing for the emails being leaked, step up and show through concrete action that they recommit to the anti-bigotry values of Chicago, to work with the Muslim community, to show that in concrete fashion, and other communities affected by this very problematic, hatred rhetoric.”

Rehab said there were no plans to boycott the Cubs “at this time.”

“We’re calling for a conversation and ways to move forward.”

Rehab added that Tom Ricketts and Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications, reached out less than 24 hours after the emails were posted.

Joe Ricketts apologized in his statement, saying, in part, “I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system. I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”

Tom Ricketts’ statement emphasized that his father is not involved in the operations of the Cubs. His statement included the line: “Let me be clear: the language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society.”

But several leaders expressed their dismay and the need for the Cubs organization to respond with more than just a statement.

“Many members of our community are not too impressed by simple ‘we’re sorry the emails were leaked,’ ” said Rehab, adding that his office was flooded with phone calls and emails as people expressed dismay. “I think there might be genuine remorse. And we’re definitely open to that.

“If that is the case, then we can move forward to put (forth) concrete steps in order to ensure the trust of the community and the other communities affected, and the Cubs’ brand can reclaim that trust.”

Some of that trust, however, wavered immediately.

Muhammad Akbar, research director for CAIR, vividly remembers taking the bus from Lane Tech to Wrigley Field against the wishes of some of his friends who were White Sox fans. After learning of the emails, Akbar said, “It feels like a betrayal. It was sickening news when I heard about it.”

Asha Binbek, a CAIR communications coordinator who described herself as a black Muslim woman who grew up in Chicago as a Cubs fan and would often attend games to celebrate special events such as her birthday, said, “I’m a bit heartbroken.”

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“I would like to see some reconciliation, some proof the Cubs’ (slogan) really is ‘Everybody in,’ that they are inclusive, that they want their fans there, no matter where they come from, no matter what they believe in,” Binbek said.

Abdullah Mitchell, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said it was “hurtful” to have to address the views and language espoused in the emails in this era.

“There must be affirmative steps to demonstrate by all community members — particularly by the Cubs organization — that this is not behavior that is accepted, tolerated, and it must be fought by all citizens of the greater Chicagoland community,” Mitchell said.

Cubs fan Rimsha Ganatra expressed her disappointment in a letter she sent to Cubs Fan Services and later tweeted.

Ganatra, 24, a fundraiser at Northwestern, wrote, “as a young Muslim woman of color who spends three hours a day, 162 days a year supporting a team that brings me immense joy, it is disheartening to see that the organization is neglecting a growing subset of their fan base.”

Ganatra suggested the Cubs should establish an appreciation night for fans like herself.

“It’s not crazy to want something like an acknowledgement,” Ganatra said. “If you can have a ‘Stars Wars’ night, you can have a Muslim-American night.”

The Mets have hosted such a night at Citi Field, and she said it provides Muslim-Americans a sense of inclusion that most baseball fans take for granted.

“I’ve never had an opportunity to have a Chicago hot dog at Wrigley Field because they’re not halal,” said Ganatra, referring to the practice of preparing food according to the dietary standards of Islamic law. “Just to get that experience that everyone else has so easily without a second thought, I would love that. That would be enough to keep me going as a Cubs fan.”

Before Tuesday’s news conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has had issues with Joe Ricketts over the years, issued a statement blasting the patriarch.

“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. Joe Ricketts should consider himself lucky he has never met my mother. She would teach him a lesson. I am proud not to share his bigoted opinions. Hate has no home in Chicago.”

Major League Baseball also expressed its dismay with the content of the emails.

“We are aware of the email exchanges involving Joe Ricketts,” MLB’s statement read. “While many of the emails were not written by Mr. Ricketts, the content is extremely offensive and completely at odds with the values and principles of Major League Baseball. Providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone is extremely important for MLB and our 30 clubs.”

Chicago Tribune’s Phil Thompson contributed.

Twitter @MDGonzales

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