MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts apologized to the team’s players and coaching staff at spring training on Monday for any distraction caused by offensive racist emails written by his father.
“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’ emails were published by Splinter News and included Islamophobic comments, such as “Islam is a cult and not a religion.” Other emails discussed conspiracies about former President Barack Obama’s birthplace and education.
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 that was even remotely racist. It just isn’t our family values.”
Joe Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade, apologized. Tom Ricketts said in a statement that 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 insisted he can’t do anything about the emails now but can use this situation as an opportunity for positive action.
The Cubs and the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced Tom Ricketts had met with leaders of several Muslim groups in what the team said was a step to take “genuine, meaningful and visible steps toward combating Islamophobia, bigotry and racism.”
“We’ll follow through on all that stuff. The fact is it’s just kind of fresh. We want to make sure we do it right. We’ll make sure that our actions back up our words,” Tom Ricketts said.
Ricketts termed the decision to leak the emails unfortunate.
“I’m not sure what anyone gains from this,” he said.
In his annual state-of-the Cubs spring address, Ricketts said shortstop Addison Russell “did well” when he publicly discussed behavior that prompted a 40-game suspension under baseball’s domestic violence policy. Russell missed the final 11 regular-season games plus a wild-card playoff loss to Colorado.
While Russell generally addressed allegations made by ex-wife Melisa Reidy, he did not detail actions that led to the discipline.
“From the very beginning we reached out to Melisa and tried to think, ‘What is the best possible answer for all the individuals involved?’” Ricketts said. “We're all just hoping this was an experience he’ll learn from and never be in the same situation again.”