#722: It’s Time We Talk About the Cubs and Trump, Part 1 of 2

December 7th, 2016

This is a less-typical 1,001 Chicago Afternoons, in that it’s not about an amazing local Chicagoan, observations from the sidewalks or me saying “fuck” 8,000 times and then deleting it because I remembered my mom reads the site.

I’m going to use this space to lay out some thoughts on the Chicago Cubs’ ties to President-elect Donald Trump and, on Friday, decide if as a moral person, I can continue to support the team I love.

The Ricketts

Donald Trump and the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, have a weird relationship.

After family heads Joe and Marlene Ricketts donated $5.5 million to an anti-Trump conservative super PAC, the future leader of the free world threatened the family on Twitter in February, alluding to exposing the Ricketts for an unnamed “lot to hide.”

“It’s a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.

In his candidate interview with the Washington Post in March, Trump was asked about the threat. He re-upped, threatening to “start taking ads telling them all what a rotten job they’re doing with the Chicago Cubs.”

This was, of course, referring to the 2016 Chicago Cubs.

Pete Ricketts — brother of Tom, son of Marlene and Joe, governor of Nebraska — did not appear to mind the threat as much. He endorsed Trump in May.

The man whose face will be on elementary school walls next to the flag while children say the Pledge of Allegiance took the opportunity to slam Pete’s brother Todd and praise the Cubs.

“I love Pete, but I think his brother doesn’t like me as much as he does,” Trump said. “I like him so much, I’m starting to like the Chicago Cubs again.”

Todd Ricketts more than made up for that. Todd took control of both Future45 and the 45Committee, which together raised $30 million for Trump.

Future45 is a super PAC, meaning it can raise as much money as it wants, but has to disclose the names of donors and can’t coordinate with campaigns. The 45Committee is a 501(c)(4), meaning it can raise as much money as it wants and can keep donors anonymous.

The Playoff Ad

Future45 used portions of that $30 million — $1 million of which came from Joe Ricketts — to fund several anti-Clinton attack ads. One of them ran during Game 6 of the Cubs’ NLCS playoff.

So Joe and Marlene helped pay for Todd’s ads to ran during Tom’s team’s game.

Politico reported Tom Ricketts told media buyers to decline Future45 ads during the World Series after sites like Deadspin called the family out on the perceived conflict.

Last week, Trump named Todd Ricketts deputy commerce secretary.

Despite these ties, I’ve personally haven’t seen much anger against the Cubs in Chicago. The Cubs don’t make the widely circulated #grabyourwallet list of companies to boycott, even though the group advises people to consider boycotting Miller beer for economic ties I consider much looser than the ties the Ricketts have to Trump.

There have been an angry letter to the Trib or two, but Tom Ricketts brushed off the ties as “no big deal” and claimed he hasn’t gotten any angry emails or letters from fans post-election. We rally around bars that dump Miller (incidentally, that last link goes to a news site owned by Joe Ricketts), but I’ve seen little similar outcry for our new-minted World Champions.

In a city that seems to loath all things Trump, even the press is wondering why we’re not talking about the big blue elephant in the room.

Which brings us to me and my big decision. Can I continue to support the Chicago Cubs and what does a boycott of a sports team actually look like?

Saving the World vs. Saving Yourself

Boycott Trump is a free app that lists products and businesses with ties to the Trump family.

“[W]e aim to give people a safe and productive way to voice their disapproval of Trump,” one of the creators told HuffPo.

But look at a prominent tech blog’s take on the app.

“[T]he Boycott Trump app may provide some small piece of comfort knowing you’re striking a blow, however small…”

No you’re not.

It’s an app designed to express disapproval that at least one top tech blog is claiming you can use to make a difference. Finding your voice is part and parcel of change, but it’s dangerous to confuse the two. Change doesn’t happen if you just voice your disapproval — verbally or economically — and then go home thinking you made a difference.

(Seems like a good time to promote my upcoming fundraiser for nonprofits Trump/Pence has targeted)

A better example than the Boycott Trump app is #grabyourwallet. It doesn’t stop with listing companies to avoid. It includes text to send the companies explaining why you’re avoiding them, Trump-free alternatives and an Action Guide so your activism doesn’t end with just not buying Ivanka purses.

I support the boycotts paired with action. Not doing something that you might not have done anyway is at best a lazy form of activism.

Doing Good vs. Not Doing Bad

I am, at this exact moment, not eating a Chick-Fil-A sandwich or drinking a Miller beer. In an hour, I will still not be eating a Chick-Fil-A sandwich or drinking a Miller beer.

I’ve not reversed the Chick-Fil-A founding family’s opposition to gay marriage, I’ve not ended a Miller board member’s Trump fundraisers. Without action attached, all I’ve accomplished is not getting drunk at work.

I’m not asking people to support companies that violate their moral beliefs. I’m asking people not to think economic activism is as easy as choosing a different beer.

Look at the device you’re reading this story on. Do you know if the columbite-tantalite ore mined for the tantalum capacitors funds warlords in the DRC who use mass rape as a weapon of war?

You don’t know. Apple and Dell can’t even be sure.

Trying to make a difference with our wallets is difficult, nuanced. There are no easy answers, especially since my problem isn’t with the Cubs but with the owners.

Come back on Friday for the fate of my fandom.

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