Cubs fans grapple with Ricketts’ politics, support of Trump


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After winning the 2016 World Series, the Chicago Cubs went to the White House to visit President Donald Trump — only months after visiting former President Barack Obama.

The sheen from winning the World Series back in 2016 for the Chicago Cubs has all but eroded. The underwhelming results on the field and the handling of Addison Russell’s domestic violence incident all played their part. However, perhaps the most significant factor involves the politics of owners, including the Ricketts family.

Because the intersection of sports and politics has become more pronounced, it seems to matter more than ever where a person, athlete or team owner falls on the political spectrum. With President Donald Trump being as divisive as he is, a segment of Cubs fans are wrestling with the fact that their beliefs are in stark contrast to the people who own their favorite baseball team.

“It makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially knowing how far-reaching and diverse Cubs fans are,” said Cubs fan @kerrence on Twitter. “Knowing that there are people immediately and irreparably harmed by policies the Ricketts support vocally and financially makes me upset and feel powerless.”

ESPN released the first of a six- part report detailing the political contributions made by sports owners in the United States. What they found so far during the 2020 election cycle is that owners have contributed $10 million to the Republican cause as opposed to $1.9 million for Democratic caucuses.

The report broke it down further and provided a table of the amounts donated by owners, as well as to which political party. Of the Ricketts siblings, Laura Ricketts ranked near the top, donating $1,715,425 to Democrats from 2016 to 2020. Todd Ricketts donated $162,235 to Republicans and Tom Ricketts donated $10,000 to bipartisan causes.

One could argue with Laura Ricketts being the “outlier” in her family that it would balance the scales in the eyes of some Cubs fans. But that is not the case.

“I’m disappointed by anyone who supports Trump,” said Cubs fan Ari Jordan. “Laura Ricketts being a Democrat should not shield the family from criticism. Her views do not erase the support and enabling of Trump by the rest of her family members.”

Cubs fans have been grappling with the Ricketts politics in earnest since 2016. After winning the World Series for the first time in more than a hundred years, as is custom, the team went to the White House. At the time, Barack Obama was still president. When Trump took office, a decision was made for the team to go back a second time. 

“I didn’t think the second White House trip was a good look,” said Randall Holt, Cubs fan and contributor at Baseball Prospectus. “They already had one, with a Sox fan president that made it very enjoyable to watch. There was no justifiable reason for going a second time.”

The general consensus as to why the team went back to the White House was because Trump, a Republican, won the presidency. 

Pete Ricketts, another one of the co-owners, is the Republican governor of Nebraska. The aforementioned Todd Ricketts, went on to become the finance chair of the Trump Victory Committee, which was a committee for the president’s reelection campaign. 

“I was honestly disappointed when the Cubs visited Trump at the White House,” Jordan said. “Teams don’t usually get two trips, regardless of presidential turnover, so the trip then felt specific to see Trump himself, which definitely was disheartening. I did not watch Cubs games for about a week after that visit because it was hard to see the faces on the field and reconcile them with the smiling faces standing next to Trump in the White House pictures.”

Todd Ricketts was involved in hosting the president and his donors when they came to Chicago. Pete Ricketts was one of the guest speakers and part of the event included taking in a Cubs vs. Cardinals game. A reception was also held in the American Airlines Convention Center in the Cubs’ office building next to Wrigley Field.

Reconciling one’s fandom and own views with the ones held by the owners is not something everyone can do. In this case, it can significantly affect the relationship between a fan and the team.

“I’ve definitely noticed myself pulling away more and more from self-identifying as a Cubs fan,” said Omar Iñiguez. “It is definitely a struggle to keep actively supporting a team where a majority of the owners who claim they would rather be known for the team than for politics actively use the team’s image to further their political causes.”

Other Cubs fans share a similar sentiment. It has become harder for them to root for the Cubs because of the views held by the Ricketts.

“I’ve been a Cubs fan for 35 years and I haven’t watched more than a handful of Cubs games over the past couple of years because it’s like endorsing people who want to hurt people I love,” Kerrence said. “I’ll always be a fan of the team but I can’t financially support them while the Ricketts are in charge.”

Letting their wallets do the talking is one way some Cubs fans are choosing to repudiate Cubs ownership. Others are going a step further and even renouncing their fandom.

“The open support for Trump has definitely affected my support for the Cubs,” Jordan said. “Supporting the Cubs inherently lines the pockets of ownership, and they have made it clear what political causes they financially support. I cannot blame other fans for quitting on the team entirely in order to sever that enabling. I still consider myself a fan, but I don’t find myself as actively invested in the team as I once was.”

Still, it is important to remember that there are a strong number of fans who will continue to watch Cubs games, buy tickets and go to the ballpark once it’s safe to do so again.

According to Baseball Almanac, the Cubs averaged 39,906 fans per game in 2016 with a season total of 3,232,420. Since then, the team has put up similar numbers, with the biggest dip coming in 2019 when they averaged 38,208 fans with a season total of 3,094,865, which was still good for third in the National League. In that four-year span, their season total attendance ranked well above average for National League teams.

Despite some fans being apprehensive about going to games and indirectly lining the pockets of ownership, there are far more who are willing to do so. It may also mean that some can indeed separate their own views and simply want to take in a ballgame. For better or worse, the Cubs are a brand in and of themselves.

“Overall, I think more often than not, views of ownership are not going to reflect the views of fans, for a myriad of reasons,” Holt said. “The public nature of their views doesn’t do anyone any favors here either.”

It is evident that the Ricketts’ support of President Trump has caused some fans to reevaluate their relationship with the Cubs. But they are not alone in this scenario. As the ESPN report showed, owners of professional sports teams do tend to skew conservative. Other fans have to grapple with the same issue as well.