Let’s face it, the Cubs haven’t exactly had a great winter when it comes to PR. Even setting aside the unrest from fans over the team’s general lack of activity in free agency, the organization has been beset by a series of ugly stories, many of which are completely of their own doing. Chief among those are the racist and bigoted emails from Joe Ricketts that were leaked to the public earlier this month.
Both Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein have publicly denounced the sentiments expressed in those messages and efforts have been made to further distance team ownership from their influential patriarch, but that’s not enough. The Cubs’ chairman recently met with leaders from several local Muslim groups and those parties released a joint statement Monday that outlined a plan of action moving forward.
Per the release, the full text of which you can find below, initiatives will include the participation of notable Muslims in Cubs and Wrigley Field traditions, anti-hate PSAs featuring Cubs personnel helping to raise public awareness against Islamophobia, and Cubs support for three community initiatives. The latter trio will be comprised of anti-bullying efforts, diversity, and inclusion training and scholarships.
While it’s unfortunate that it took the publication of some hateful emails to spur these efforts, I applaud the Cubs for taking these steps and I support them heartily in truly trying to be part of the solution. They’ve pledged to do the same with domestic violence, mandating enhanced training for every member of the organization by the start of the season.
We’ll continue to hear more about their work on these fronts in the coming days and weeks, beginning with Tom Ricketts addressing bloggers and media members Monday in Mesa. From there, we should start seeing these words put into action. Let me rephrase that: We must start seeing these words put into action. And if the Cubs are serious about what they say, this won’t be just a temporary solution.
They’ve got a real opportunity to set the bar not only for themselves, but for the rest of MLB and maybe even professional sports. As long as they’re able to make an impact and raise the level of awareness of even a few people in Chicago or throughout the country, these efforts will have been worthwhile.
Today the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) released the following joint statement with the Chicago Cubs announcing genuine, meaningful and visible steps toward combating Islamophobia, bigotry and racism.
This follows a productive meeting held recently at the CAIR-Chicago office between the leaders of several Muslim groups (CAIR-Chicago, Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago – CIOGC and the IL Muslim Civic Coalition) and Chicago Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts. The Cubs offered to meet with the groups after published offensive emails from Joe Ricketts spurred these groups to publicly condemn the language and content.
The meeting began with a discussion on the history of Muslims in America and in Chicago. Following the discussion, several Muslims in attendance shared stories about their personal history and experience as longtime Cubs fans and how the emails from Joe Ricketts raised doubt about the family and organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Tom Ricketts offered a heartfelt apology on behalf of the organization and expressed his desire to mend relationships in the Chicago Muslim community and lend his support in the fight against Islamophobia. Both parties agreed to convert the unfortunate circumstances that brought the groups together into a positive opportunity to work together against hate and bigotry.
The group concluded the meeting with a discussion on a proposed plan of action that included: the participation of notable Muslims in Cubs and Wrigley Field traditions, anti-hate PSAs featuring Cubs personnel helping to raise public awareness against Islamophobia, as well as Cubs support for three community initiatives: anti-bullying efforts, diversity and inclusion training and scholarships. The details of these and other initiatives, as well as the implementation timeline, will be discussed in subsequent meetings in the coming weeks.
“We are encouraged the Cubs, led by Tom Ricketts, responded swiftly and genuinely in partnering with us to turn the situation around. As a result, the Cubs are taking a significant step forward and will use the power of their brand and voice to fight Islamophobia, racism and bigotry. We hope other franchises follow their lead. This active commitment to our shared values of Everybody In is not only great for the brand, but for all fans, for the affected communities and for our city as a whole,” stated CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to further our commitment to diversity and inclusion by joining the Chicago Muslim community in its efforts to eradicate bigotry and Islamophobia,” said Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts. “My family and I want to thank Ahmed Rehab and Chicago Muslim leaders for the opportunity to meet and have a frank and constructive dialogue about building a better future.”