Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts apologizes for distraction of father’s offensive emails

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts apologizes for distraction of father’s offensive emails
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is working with the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on initiatives to counter Islamophobia. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts apologized to the team’s players and coaching staff at spring training Monday for any distraction caused by offensive racist emails that have been tied to his father.

Tom Ricketts said he was surprised by the emails because “our family was never raised that way. I’ve never heard my father say anything remotely racist.”

“The emails that were in there were unacceptable and had no place. My father has no direct role or economic interest in the team. That doesn’t represent what this organization is,” Tom Ricketts said after addressing the team. “I also said: ‘Look, I’m sorry for the distraction this may have created the last couple days. We need to focus on baseball. We need to get back to our winning ways. We need to get off to a fast start.’ The last thing the organization needs is more off-the-field distractions.’ ”

Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade and a major Republican donor, became embroiled in a firestorm after the publication of a series of emails containing racist jokes and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. The emails included such comments as “Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy” and “Islam is a cult and not a religion.”

Other emails included conspiracies about former President Barack Obama’s birthplace and education, and some had racist content, including a forwarded joke with a punchline that includes the N-word, to which Joe Ricketts replied “great laugh.”

Joe Ricketts apologized after the emails became public, saying “I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”

Tom Ricketts called the decision to leak the emails unfortunate. “I’m not sure what anyone gains from this,” he said.

The emails were published online by Splinter News, which had done earlier stories about the Ricketts family. The family includes Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is Tom’s brother.

In a statement, Tom Ricketts said his father’s emails don’t reflect the values of the Cubs.

“The fact is he acknowledged that they were inappropriate emails and expressed regret. He apologized. Those aren’t the values that my family was raised with,” Tom Ricketts said. “His statements, both of them, are good, and fair. He acknowledges that those kind of statements cause pain. But I love him. He’s my dad. He’s a great man. He’s done incredible things. He’s helped children all over the world through his charities.”

Tom Ricketts also said on Monday that he couldn’t do anything about the emails now but can use this situation as an opportunity to do more positive things.

Toward that end, he joined with the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to announce a series of initiatives aimed at countering “Islamophobia, bigotry and racism.”

The agreement followed a recent meeting with Chicago Muslim groups. The proposed plan of action includes the participation of notable Muslims in Cubs and Wrigley Field traditions; anti-hate public service announcements featuring Cubs personnel to raise public awareness of Islamophobia; and Cubs support for anti-bullying efforts, diversity and inclusion training, and scholarships.

“We are encouraged that the Cubs, led by Tom Ricketts, responded swiftly and genuinely in partnering with us to turn the situation around,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.

World-Herald staff writer Martha Stoddard contributed to this report.