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Joe Ricketts: Chicago Cubs family patriarch's Islamophobic and right-wing emails leaked - ‘Muslims are naturally my enemy’

The Cubs patriarch has received condemnations from the Chicago Mayor, Major League Baseball, and his own son

Sarah Harvard
New York
Wednesday 06 February 2019 23:23 GMT
Joe Ricketts, who helped his family cough up more than $800 million to buy the Chicago Cubs baseball team, wrote a series of xenophobic emails dated back to 2009 disparaging Islam and Muslims.
Joe Ricketts, who helped his family cough up more than $800 million to buy the Chicago Cubs baseball team, wrote a series of xenophobic emails dated back to 2009 disparaging Islam and Muslims. (Getty Images)

The bigoted Islamophobic views of Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the family owning the Chicago Cubs, were revealed earlier this week when his emails were leaked, a plethora of which were filled with conspiracy theories and racist rants.

The emails, which were obtained and published by Splinter News, were dated back as far as 2009 and featured racist jokes, anti-Muslim rants, and right-wing conspiracy theories.

In one email exchange, the 77-year-old billionaire wrote: “Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.”

Mr Ricketts is the founder and former CEO of TD Ameritrade, an online brokerage firm, and helped his family cough up more than $800m to buy the Chicago Cubs baseball team, Wrigley Field, and 25 per cent of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago shares in 2009.

In addition to the Cubs, the Nebraska-born businessman has significant influence in American politics. Mr Ricketts has contributed millions of dollars into state and federal elections, launched the conservative Ending Spending Super PAC in 2010, and has recently made large financial contributions to anti-Trump and pro-Trump Republican groups during the 2016 presidential elections.

His family is also deeply involved in party politics, with three of them holding prominent roles in the political sphere. Pete Ricketts is the Republican governor of Nebraska. Todd Ricketts is the Republican National Committee finance chairman. The elder Ricketts’ daughter, Laura, is a well-known Democratic fundraiser and considered to be a prominent LGBT activist.

In several emails, from 2009 to 2013, show Mr Ricketts sending his son, the Nebraska governor, racist jokes and Islamophobic conspiracy theories. Some of them include messages where the elder Ricketts referring to Islam—an Abrahamic faith belonging to 1.7bn people worldwide—as a “cult,” and sending a link to a heavily-edited video claiming former President Barack Obama admitted to being Muslim.

Pete Ricketts, who was elected to Nebraska’s governorship in 2015, rebuked his father when he sent another email in 2010 that spewed anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and recommended he look up stories on Snopes—a fact-checking website—before sharing them.

To which Mr Ricketts responded with: “I think Islam is a cult and not a religion. Christianity and Judaism are are based on love whereas Islam is based on “kill the infidel” a thing of evil.”

He further nudged his father to consider researching the validity of the stories he passes on.

“I am not sure that your statement is accurate with regards to Islam but I recommend reading the piece on snopes,” he replied in an email.

Other emails Mr Ricketts sent include debunked birther memes about Mr Obama, jokes including the n-word as a punchline, and long-winded screeds about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Chicago Cubs family patriarch released a statement on Monday apologising for the xenophobic contents in his email. “I deeply regret and apologies for some of the email exchanges I had in my emails,” Mr Ricketts wrote. “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.”

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Tom Ricketts, the Cubs chairman, attempted to distance himself and the team, one of the most iconic and profitable franchise in Major League Baseball, from his father in a statement to The Atheltic.

“My father is not involved with the operation of the Chicago Cubs in any way,” the younger Ricketts said. “I am trusted with representing this organisation 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.”

He also called his father’s emails “racially insensitive” and argued that “the language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society”.

Cubs executives reportedly reached out to members of the Muslim community in Chicago to apologise and assuage some of the backlash from the Islamophobic emails.

“Tom [Ricketts] and Cubs executive Julian Green (the Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs) spoke to one of the representatives of the community this morning and reached out to others,” Dennis Culloton, the Ricketts family spokesman, told USA TODAY. “We hope there will be a meeting or meetings.”

Major League Baseball also condemned the Cubs patriarch and the contents of his email exchanges.

“We are aware of the email exchanges involving Joe Ricketts,” its 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.”

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, which is home to one of the largest Muslim population in the United States, did not mince his words when he also released a statement admonishing Mr Ricketts.

“Joe Ricketts once said that I do not share his values,” Mr 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.”

The Chicago Muslim community are still unimpressed with the Ricketts family and Cubs response to the bigoted emails, with some members calling for more than just an apology from the influential family.

Kamran Hussain is the president of Chicago’s Muslim Community Centre (MCC) and has been a season ticket holder for 15 consecutive years. He wrote a letter to the Ricketts family, citing that the Cubs’ response to the patriarch’s emails had “fallen short and has the ring of PR or ‘damage control’ for most Muslims and others of good conscience in Chicago”.

The MCC president advised the Ricketts family to meet with the Chicago Muslim community to assuage their concerns.

Mr Hussain told the Chicago Tribune that he had to separate his love for the Cubs and his disdain for Mr Ricketts’ politics for quite a long time. He’s uncertain whether he can still do that.

“I now have kids and they are getting older and they ask about things like Donald Trump and the wall,” Mr Hussain said. “I don’t think I can keep compartmentalising those things.”

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