Ricketts: 'I've never heard my father say anything that was even remotely racist'
MESA, Ariz. -- During his spring-training media sessions in past years, Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts liked to paint a world of sunshine and rainbows.
The team was always going to be "great" -- even when it wasn't -- and there was always some new marketing partnership to talk about.
Things weren't sunny in Arizona Monday, and you probably had to look to find a rainbow once the intermittent rain showers ended.
Even Ricketts admitted there were more distractions than usual around the baseball team.
In his half-hour-plus meeting with the media at the Cubs' Sloan Park facility, Ricketts touched on several topics, including the racist and Islamaphobic emails shared by his father and the team's unwillingness to sign big-name free agents this off-season.
Last week, Ricketts met with members of Chicago's Muslim community to try to mend fences after leaked emails revealed racist and Islamaphobic comments by Joe Ricketts, the family patriarch. Tom Ricketts and the Cubs have stressed the elder Ricketts plays no part in running the team.
"We know he's not that guy," Tom Ricketts told reporters, referring to his father. "It's easy to take some emails and try to paint a picture. We know who my father is. We know he's not the person that some of the articles want to make him to be.
"Those aren't the values my family was raised with. I was surprised to see the emails … I've never heard my father say anything that was even remotely racist. Just wasn't our family values. I love him, he's my dad, he's a great man."
On Monday, the Cubs issued a news release stating that "the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) released (a) statement with the Cubs announcing genuine, meaningful and visible steps toward combating Islamophobia, bigotry and racism."
"We are encouraged the Cubs, led by Tom Ricketts, responded swiftly and genuinely in partnering with us to turn the situation around," said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab in that joint statement. "As a result, the Cubs are taking a significant step forward and will use the power of their brand and voice to fight Islamophobia, racism and bigotry."
As far as the product on the field, Ricketts was asked why the Cubs did not spend more money on attracting a big-name free agent, such as Bryce Harper, after bowing out in last year's wild-card game after a 95-win regular season.
"That's a pretty easy question to answer -- we don't have any more (money)," he responded. "We've been in the top five in spending in baseball the last five or six years. We were in the top couple last year. We've put our money back on the field. Unfortunately, you just can't have a high-profile free agent every single year.
"Part of that is how much it costs, the $25 million to $30 million (per year) it's going to cost. Plus, it's a 10-year commitment. You got to pay those dollars. We like the team we have, we made the bets we have over the last few years. I think that we're well positioned to win the division again. As much as I would love to have a great new exciting player every single season, it just can't happen every year."
The Cubs also have young players who continue to make more money each year.
"We have to have the financial flexibility to keep the players we want to keep for the long run," Ricketts said. "We could try to sign a couple new players this year, but you can't spend that same dollar twice. You have to be able to project out and look for flexibility in the future. But like I said, it's not all about money. Do you have the right guys and can they stay healthy and get through the season? And I think we do have the right guys."
On the Cubs' upcoming new TV partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting, Ricketts told the media that Sinclair's conservative-leaning politics will not bleed into game broadcasts. "(Sinclair) will be a great partner," he said. "There will be nothing political."