Hey, Ricketts family: You People can make a difference — if you choose


Maybe Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts didn’t say “you people” exactly when he addressed a group of black civic and religious leaders in Omaha during an emotionally charged meeting last week.

Or maybe he did; he apologized for poorly chosen words after the conflict went public, and the pastor who first brought it to light said, “I know what I heard.”

Either way, the co-owner of the Cubs had the Ricketts family ownership under the spotlight in another public controversy over the perception of how some family members view others who are not like them — this time during a global pandemic, with a national jobless rate we haven’t seen since the Great Depression and with coast-to-coast protests over police brutality and systemic racism that rival the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

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You people.

Enough already.

The day after Pete Ricketts’ combative encounter was reported, the Cubs finally released a statement of “support” over the anger and protests rising from George Floyd’s May 25 killing by a Minneapolis cop — an inexplicably week-late, weak-kneed statement so sanitized of specifics that You People at the top of the organization might as well have stayed silent on the subject.

You People have benefitted from the greatest decade of revenue and equity growth in franchise history since you bought the team, overseeing the long-elusive championship and raising the family’s national profile enough to help get one brother elected governor (a few years after he was trounced in a statewide primary in the same state) and to help another, Todd, become the finance chair of the Republican National Committee.

If You People actually wanted to make a difference in the well-being of most Americans, break down the country’s racist structures and “support” the cause, You People could use your influence to change federal and local policies and bend political will on these issues much faster than any magnitude of grass-roots, citizen-based protests. And You People know it. If you didn’t believe you have that power, You People wouldn’t have spent more on campaigns in the last two federal election cycles, according to public records, than any of the other billionaire owners in baseball.

And that’s another thing: You People haven’t helped your public image by sucking up to Donald Trump once he won the 2016 nomination after having spent millions on efforts to prevent his nomination. You People certainly have the right to spend your money anywhere you want and say publicly whatever you want and trade off the brand of your privately-owned baseball team to further any agenda and ambition you like. But then own it. Don’t expect a public-perception bailout when you try to claim the team isn’t connected to any of those other things.

The average Chicagoan — never mind the average American — didn’t know the first names of any of You People before you bought the Cubs, except maybe TD Ameritrade founder Joe, the family patriarch.

And how about You People call out those racist emails from Joe’s inbox for what they were last year. Even white families with BLM signs in their yards might have the racist relative or two in the family tree. It happens. But to say “we know he's not that guy,” or he’s “a great man” — OK. Just don’t expect anybody else to take it at face value. Sometimes it feels like You People are just looking for free stuff from the media.

And another thing: You People really shouldn’t use terms like “biblical” when talking about you and your billionaire pals trying to get guys to play baseball. Some of us get confused about whether you’re talking about a coronavirus plague that has killed 112,000 Americans, the meek inheriting 40 million unemployment applications or that part about the camel and the eye of the needle.        

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Geez, the first financial adversity after more than 10 consecutive years of record-breaking industry revenues and You People act like victims and start looking for bailouts.

Haven’t You People heard the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility”? (The French Revolution version, not the Spider-Man version.)

Maybe You People should just have the men in the family take a timeout from public discourse and follow Laura Ricketts, the only one in the family with anything close to a response in this moment that didn’t seem to be aided by a PR firm and in fact seemed sincere, personal and heartfelt — exchanging tweets with former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler, sharing “outrage” and her “love.”

You People have the kind of rare, elite power to effect real change in this country if you choose. You People have enriched yourselves and strengthened that power through your ownership of one of the most iconic franchises in sports. You People claim to be invested, caring members of this community and allies to the anti-racism cause.

Let’s see You People do something about it.

Otherwise, maybe You People should just stick to sports.

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