After a week of turmoil, culminating in a weekend of protests nationwide that make it impossible to (continue to) ignore racism, it’s damn hard to focus on sports. We are a baseball website, of course, and while my heart and love for our National Pastime sharpens as I age, the sport I hold dear has been on the back burner.
The Cubs released a statement this morning, however, and it provides empty solace of what is transpiring in our world in the most benign manner possible:
The Cubs, of course, are an organization that have made their profits inextricably tied to their political beliefs/ambitions/endeavors. They have opened the door to criticism regarding their political activity, whether or not they want that behavior exposed.
Take, for example, the manner in which Pete Ricketts recently addressed black leaders in Nebraska:
Pete is, of course, Nebraska’s governor, and employing racist language as he addressed community leaders in deep pain is plain disgusting. Government authorities need to listen to help mobilize, to help create actual change in the name of racial justice and equality.
Needless to say, Pete’s words and actions run counter to the bland, nothing statement made by the Cubs organization — to whom he and his family profit wildly from. While his sister Laura has, on the contrary, offered support with stronger language, brother Todd is serving as the Republican National Committee Finance Chairman. The Ricketts family has stumbled through every PR disaster, resting their laurels on bringing a World Series winner.
For the Cubs organization, offering up nothing more than a statement decrying racism and offering to help rebuild disenfranchised neighborhoods is, at best, unbelievable. Rather than some impotent statement that seeks to assuage the public, tangible action is required.
Those of us that maintain privilege can no longer trivialize the horrors of systemic racism, or claim our support to end such structures with words alone. Solidarity exists in many forms, from donating whatever resources we have, to protesting with communities that have endured inexplicable pain, to amplifying the voices of the oppressed however we can.
To that end, fans must hold the Cubs accountable. Perhaps the Cubs could invest in organizations like the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which would 1) in the short-term cover bail for protesters and 2) provide long-term support in disenfranchised communities. Perhaps the Cubs use their financial might to help revitalize black and brown neighborhoods, not through the horrors of gentrification but via asset-based community development initiatives. Perhaps the Ricketts can join in the protests, demonstrating solidarity with the black communities they claim to support.
There are several avenues they could take, and they’ve invited criticism into how they respond to their own words.
What we’ve seen from the Cubs prior to the tragedy of George Floyd is a willingness to aggressively cut minor league players to save money, force pay cuts among administrative workers, and fumble through the launch of Marquee. The claim the Cubs are poor is as believable as their statement on racism.
If the Cubs want us to believe their words condemning racism, and their stated belief to build a stronger and just city, they must act with purpose.
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