Cubs Tom Ricketts on defense over dad’s anti-Obama plan
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporteremail@example.com May 23, 2012 12:28AM
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts ponders a question about manager Lou Piniella, who announced that he will retire from coaching at the end of this season, during a baseball news conference at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Updated: July 2, 2012 10:04AM
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is reaching out to black politicians and community leaders to try and control the political damage caused by his father’s involvement in a conservative super PAC that considered attacking President Barack Obama by using the fiery sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Ricketts’ explanation to the City Council’s 19 black aldermen and to the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is similar to what the Cubs chairman told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Neither he nor any member of the Ricketts family would condone “racially-insensitive” attack ads against Obama. And the proposed ad campaign — since disavowed by family patriarch Joe Ricketts — should not stand in the way of an elusive, $300 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field.
“He had the respect to give me a call, explain himself and ask me to believe him. As a result, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. But, I also know politics is dirty and you can’t control people in your organization at times,” said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th).
“He did the right thing by reaching out. There are times when you have to take a pro-active approach to rumors and innuendo. Based on the call and him denying any association with that philosophy, I am still looking positively at a Wrigley [renovation]. This would not get in the way.”
Ald. Will Burns (4th) said Tom Ricketts has “more work to do” if he hopes to salvage the Wrigley deal.
“I understand the father is separate from the Cubs. But, it’s hard to explain that to the general public at a time when you’re asking for public support” to renovate 98-year-old Wrigley, Burns said.
“I’m very supportive of the president. The campaign was pretty offensive and similar to stuff the right wing has tried to do against President Obama by portraying him as some sort of Manchurian candidate. It’ll take a while for them to dig out from underneath it.”
Jackson said he met privately with the Cubs chairman after a New York Times story about the anti-Obama campaign prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ignore an apologetic phone call from Tom Ricketts.
“He is on a very different page from his father. His father is an avowed right-winger. He has a different disposition,” Jackson Sr. said.
“I believe his father was very much involved in it and did condone it. The New York Times did a pre-emptive strike. But, I’m not holding it against his son. Tom has been fair and open. Ever since he’s owned the Cubs, he’s been reaching out.”
Jackson’s son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Il.), said he has a unique perspective on the Ricketts family controversy.
“I have a sense of what it means to have a prominent father — in this case a prominent and fairly affluent father — who has political points of view that are fundamentally different from his son’s and run contrary to his son’s business interests,” Jackson Jr. said.
“The son is trying to execute a business plan, deal with local politics and refurbish Wrigley Field. And the son now has to go behind the father and say, ‘That’s not me.’ I know this position very well. I empathize with it. I feel for young Ricketts.”
Without support from the 19-member Black Caucus, the Cubs have little chance of convincing the City Council to approve a $150 million variation of the financing scheme that Emanuel once called a “non-starter” — forfeiting 35 years’ worth of amusement tax growth.
The Cubs also need Council approval to relax Wrigley’s landmark status and allow the Cubs to wring as much as $150 million in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of the stadium.
The changes range from more outfield signage behind the Wrigley bleachers to street closings on Sheffield and Waveland every game day to make way for money-making street fairs.