MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts addressed the team on Monday morning as he does every spring, but this year, he needed to discuss more than just the baseball season ahead. Off-the-field issues have dominated the focus recently for Chicago, creating distractions from the upbeat feelings typically associated with
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts addressed the team on Monday morning as he does every spring, but this year, he needed to discuss more than just the baseball season ahead. Off-the-field issues have dominated the focus recently for Chicago, creating distractions from the upbeat feelings typically associated with the start of camp.
Ricketts wanted to talk to the players, coaches and staff about the recently leaked e-mails containing racist and Islamophobic rhetoric from his father, Joe Ricketts, whose fortune paved the way to purchase the Cubs a decade ago. Then, the team's chairman met with reporters for more than a half-hour, touching on Addison Russell's 40-game suspension, the recent partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group for the launch of Marquee Sports Network next year and the payroll situation, among many other topics.
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"Obviously," Ricketts said, "this is a different kind of gathering than we've had the past few years."
Prior to taking any questions, Ricketts started his news conference with an opening statement about his gathering with the team. There was the usual talk of expectations for the year ahead -- winning the World Series being the goal -- but Ricketts also condemned the language used by his father. As Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein emphasized last week, Ricketts said the team's actions will mean more than any words uttered into a microphone.
• Quote highlights from Ricketts' press conference
Earlier on Monday morning, the Cubs and the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a joint statement about taking steps to combat Islamophobia, bigotry and racism. The press release detailed proposed plans to have notable Muslims participate in Cubs and Wrigley Field traditions, combined with having the team support anti-hate PSAs, scholarships and more, which will be discussed further in the coming weeks.
"Those aren't the values that my family was raised with," Ricketts said of the contents of the e-mails. "And I have to be honest, I was surprised to see the e-mails. 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."
Ricketts emphasized that his father is not involved with the Cubs' decision-making and does not benefit from the team's revenues in any way.
"Not the ballpark. Not the hotel. Nothing," Ricketts said.
On Friday, Russell held a near 20-minute news conference to answer questions about his suspension for violating MLB's Domestic Abuse Policy, as well as his ongoing treatment plan. Given the nature of the situation, and the fact that Russell can be a full participant in Spring Training, many of the shortstop's teammates have fielded questions on the issue since arriving to camp.
Ricketts said Melisa Reidy, Russell's ex-wife, has been consulted throughout the past several months, as the Cubs have navigated their way through the decisions surrounding the shortstop.
"[We] came to the conclusion that the better path forward was to support Addison," Ricketts said, "and give him a chance as a Cub to get this behind him and become a better person, and see if he can't live up to that. And he's taken up the challenge."
Ricketts' hope was to have the focus -- while understandably centered on all these issues at the moment -- will turn back to the product on the baseball field.
"Things aren't always going to go well every single year or every single month," Ricketts said. "It just feels like there's a few more distractions than normal this year. But hopefully by addressing it as best we can and finding the positive, things we can do to move forward, we can get everyone focused on baseball again."
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.