The apology that follows a gut punch to the public needs to be appropriately gutsy, too. Stiff and sanitized won’t do. Neither will “I’m sorry you were offended,” nor any variation on “Mistakes were made.” People have to hear it all the way in the cheap seats. Yet the bobbled apology happens again and again.
Joe Ricketts, billionaire patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, drew fire after Splinter News published a trove of e-mails in which he engaged in Islamophobic conspiracy theories and other bonkers, bigoted exchanges. While Ricketts and the Cubs responded quickly, they didn’t blow anyone away with the passion of their regret. We wondered whether a public relations consultant and a dozen lawyers had signed off.
“I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong,” Ricketts said.
“Let me be clear: The language and views expressed in those e-mails have no place in our society,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts’ chilly statement.
They didn’t even match the heat of the MLB, which offered that the e-mails were “extremely offensive and completely at odds with the principles of Major League Baseball.”
The younger Rickettses’ posture leaned on the notion that their father’s offenses are a separate matter from their work. They pointed out that he isn’t involved in running the Cubs. Joe Ricketts built his fortune in Nebraska and now lives in Wyoming. There’s nothing to suggest that Tom, Pete, Laura and Todd Ricketts approve of their father’s online behavior or that those attitudes have infected the baseball organization.
But Joe Ricketts’ money funded the purchase of the team, and the cleanup attempt didn’t suffice. Offended fans called for more convincing action. Some noted the New York Mets hosted their first Muslim American Night last season.
Amends take time. Improvements in communication or culture may not be immediately visible. A person can’t resign from the title of “patriarch.” That’s why those early responses in a fraught moment matter so much.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, no fan of Joe Ricketts, pronounced that the “ignorance and intolerance he has espoused are not welcome in Chicago.” As for the Cubs, they should fashion a stadium-sized gesture of apology. It will take no less to express that all fans are welcome and that hate has no place at Wrigley Field.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE