On Wednesday, I laid out some of the tight political and financial ties between the family of Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts and President-elect Donald Trump.
This is all leading up to me deciding if I can still support the team that means baseball to me.
Tom Ricketts is the owner and chairman of the team, but his parents Joe and Marlene and all three of his siblings (Todd, Pete and Laura) share interest in the team through their family trust.
Todd raised $30 million for Trump through the family-run super PAC Future45 and the dark money 501(c)(4) 45Committee. Todd, who ran a Future45-funded attack ad with images of Clinton interworked with news photos of ISIS during Game 6 of the Cubs’ National League Championship Series, was recently appointed by Trump as deputy commerce secretary.
Pete, the governor of Nebraska, endorsed Trump and has served as an informal advisor to the campaign on agricultural issues.
After initially donating $5.5 million to an anti-Trump conservative super PAC during the primary, Joe and Marlene Ricketts switched side after Trump tweeted at them “I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!” and told The Washington Post he was considering taking out a series of ads attacking their management of the Chicago Cubs.
$1 million of the $30 million Future45 and the 45Committee raised for Trump came directly from Joe Ricketts, although as a 501(c)(4) dark money fund, the 45Committee does not have to disclose donors. We don’t and never will know who, Ricketts or no, donated to that group.
Laura was a major fundraiser for Clinton.
Tom Ricketts called the family political ties “no big deal.”
Getting This Out of the Way
The Cubs’ various owners over the years have been various levels of horrible, or had business and political ties I would consider horrible. For pity’s sake, Charles Weeghman hosted Klan rallies.
But saying I should be fine with the Ricketts’ family because I didn’t care about past owners is lazy logic.
Maybe I should have cared about where my ticket money ended up the whole time.
Bad Product vs. Bad People
There is a difference between boycotting a company because the practices and products are morally bad and the owners are morally bad.
Jimmy John Liautaud of Jimmy John’s subs is a right-wing megadonor who used to get his jollies shooting endangered species in the face. I support hunting (of non-endangered species) and Liautaud has since sworn off big-game hunting, but if you have a problem with that, it’s a problem with the man.
The problem with the company is its treatment of workers. The sandwich chain recently had to shell out $100,000 in Illinois in fines for making low- and minimum-wage workers sign noncompete clauses, saying they couldn’t work in other sandwich shops for two years if they left Jimmy John’s.
Liautaud wasn’t worried about workers taking the trade secrets of meat, mayo and bread to the competition. It’s easier to bully, mistreat and underpay fast-food workers if they literally have no other employment option.
Do you avoid Chick-Fil-A because of the founding family’s stance on gay marriage or because they continue to use non-degradable Styrofoam cups? Do you dump Miller products because of Trump ties or because they make crappy beer?
And what of cool people? Bill Gates is a hero of mine, not because I’m a huge Windows fan, but because of the astounding work done by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That said, one of the dirty secrets of modern technology is that no one — not Apple, Dell or sainted Steve Jobs — can say for sure if the tantalum used in the needed capacitors helps fund warlords in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Maybe that hero helped put blood on my hands through the keyboard I’m using to write this sentence.
That said, stances need to be made. We get no change without them.
I believe economic protests can work, but only when they’re targeting a practice or product and not someone’s belief system.
Changing Actions vs. Changing Beliefs
Chick-Fil-A faced a wave of boycotts in 2012 when conservative Christian COO Dan Cathy shocked the world by being a conservative Christian and saying he opposes gay marriage.
In the 26 years since the McDonald’s boycotts, the planet’s landfills were spared an incalculable amount of non-degradable polystyrene.
In the four years since the Chick-Fil-A boycotts, Dan Cathy is still conservative and Christian.
A protest aimed at “Change this specific business practice” has a better success rate than one aimed at “Don’t think the things you think.” And with the Cubs, we’re in the territory of the latter. No matter how few Cubs tickets you buy, the Ricketts family will continue to hold the horrible beliefs they hold.
But there’s a harder issue.
I’m Already Not Buying Cubs Stuff
I own one Chicago Cubs baseball cap. I’ve owned it since I was 12, it’s falling apart and I plan to have this the rest of my life. I have a hoodie I bought at a cold game and a few T-shirts have trickled my way over the decades.
I went to one game in the 2016 season, but probably won’t go in 2017. I got to see the team that went all the way, plus they’re jacking up the ticket prices this season.
I can’t boycott the Cubs because I’m not giving them money right now.
But am I giving them free advertising with my worn-out cap from 1991? Am I inadvertently funding Trump when I buy a sandwich, coffee or shoe from an “Official _____ of the Chicago Cubs” company?
Some of the money you spend on the Chicago Cubs will go to support Donald Trump. Maybe pennies per ball cap or fractions of a cent per one of those bison hot dogs they started serving at Wrigley since Tom Ricketts took over (his dad owns the bison meat company), but the uncomfortable fact remains that money spent on blue goes to help orange.
So, for me at least, it’s decision time
Can I love the Chicago Cubs?
I can’t recite batting averages from 1967 or tell you more about draft prospects and series standings than that both concepts exist, but I do love this team. I cried a bit when they won and proudly wrote my late grandfather’s name on Wrigley Field in chalk when we as a city were still doing that.
I wrote his name twice.
But I value my political morality more than I value my team loyalty.
I can’t condone the Cubs’ owners, even if they were bullied and cowed into a spineless support of the tweeter in chief. But I can’t put it on the same level as the blood on my hands from cellphones, pollutants or maltreated low-income sandwich workers.
My decision is hope and resignation, adding the crack of a bat to the ever-growing list of ways I am complicit in the world’s decline. I’ll make no effort to spend money on the Cubs, but won’t pretend I have a choice in whether I root for this team or wear the clothes I already own.
We’re all hypocrites in this world, or at least have been forced by economy into a perpetual cognitive dissonance. We love animals but eat meat. We root for peace but profit from war. The VW of hippies’ delights was built on Nazi slave labor and that’s the symbol that best represents how we live today.
Don’t get smug. Do you know if child laborers sewed the clothes you’re wearing?
That’s the resignation. My hope comes from the Ricketts’ moral cowardice, the fact they were bullied into giving millions to a candidate they campaigned against in better times. They’re opportunists who will turn away from Trump when he has no more to offer, so let’s do what we can to make that moment happen. We organize. We educate. We fight.
It won’t happen in the waning days of 2016, nor in 2017, when he will ascend to the nation’s highest post. But the year will come when Trump will have no more to offer and the rats will scurry. I don’t know when, but I can wait.
I’m a Cubs fan. There’s always next year.