CHICAGO — Muslim Cubs fans are calling on the team to prove it’s committed to all of its fans amid a firestorm over Joe Ricketts’ controversial emails.
Leaked emails from Ricketts — who doesn’t have a title with the team but is patriarch of the family that majority owns it — included racist and Islamophobic jokes, slurs and conspiracy theories. They were published by SplinterNews earlier this week, leading to outcry from Cubs fans.
“… We cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society,” Ricketts wrote in one leaked email. “Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.”
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations’ Chicago branch, said during a Tuesday news conference it was “good” the emails had been forced into the open, though he said they were “alarming and highly disappointing.”
“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 potential players who are Muslim …? Would they play out in discriminatory fashion?”
In a statement, Ricketts said he regretted and apologized for “some of the exchanges” in his emails.
“Sometimes I received emails that I should have condemned,” Ricketts said. “Other times I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system. I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”
Some Muslim Cubs fans have told Rehab they won’t watch games or be fans of the team because of Ricketts’ emails, while others have talked to Rehab about how they can avoid being pushed out of the fandom, he said.
Rehab and Abdullah Mitchell, executive director of the Council on Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said the Cubs now need to take steps to show they are committed to fostering diversity and fighting bigotry.
There must be actions “particularly by the Cubs organization [to show] this is not behavior that is accepted, tolerated, and it must be fought by all citizens here,” Mitchell said during the Tuesday news conference.
The team’s leaders said they will meet with Chicago’s Muslim groups in the coming days, Rehab said.
The Cubs declined to comment but shared a statement from Ricketts’ son, team chairman Tom Ricketts, in which he condemned his father’s emails.
“We are aware of the racially insensitive emails in my father’s account that were published by an online media outlet,” Tom Ricketts said. “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.”
CAIR communications coordinator Asha Binbek, who is a black, Muslim woman and a fan of the Cubs, said she was “heartbroken” to see the emails and it made her second-guess wearing Cubs gear.
“To see something like that … it hurts,” Binbek said. “What I would like to see is some reconciliation and proof that the Cubs really [are] ‘everybody in,’ that they are inclusive … .
“I would just like for them to really show that it’s not what they believe.”
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