The Betrayal of Muslim Cub Fans (Like Me)

Chicago Tribune Commentary Says It All…and Perfectly

Photo by Heather Maguire on Unsplash

Growing up in Chicago as a Muslim kid with a funny name, I often felt isolated and sometimes bullied. I grasped at any opportunity to join with popular culture and show my classmates that I was American too. Being a Cubs fan gave me that chance. Decades of cheering them on bonded me, along with hundreds of thousands of Chicago Muslims, to our American identity and our non-Muslim friends and neighbors.”

These are the words of my dear friend and colleague Dr. Jihad Shoshara, a Chicago area Pediatrician and all-around superstar in the Chicago Muslim community. He wrote these words in response to the recently-leaked emails from Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, which said in part:

Christians and Jews can have a mutual respect for each other to create a civil society. As you know, Islam cannot do that. Therefore we cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society. Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.

When these emails surfaced, many Muslim Cub fans — myself included — felt betrayed. It hurt to know that the owners of a Chicago institution we all love dearly — the Cubs — is owned by someone who, while loving our money, hates us for who we are. After this incident, when I look at my Cubs jersey and hoodie, I get a painful pit in my stomach.

Dr. Shoshara’s commentary in the Tribune perfectly and eloquently embodied what I suspect most Muslim Cub fans — again, myself included — feel:

It may then come as a surprise that Ricketts’ emails aren’t my major concern. They were private and never intended for release, so while I find his sense of smug superiority abhorrent I also acknowledge that it is hatred that he worked assiduously hard to mask.
What I, and I expect millions of American Muslims, find more disturbing is that Ricketts and the Cubs organization believe that nonspecific, milquetoast disavowals are sufficient to deal with the Islamophobia his emails have unveiled.
Saying “I strongly believe bigoted ideas are wrong” is like announcing that winter is cold. What American Muslims hear behind such an insipid apology is that the Cubs family patriarch has a problem with our existence — and is only sorry that he got caught.

Read the full commentary here.

After this incident, when I look at my Cubs jersey and hoodie, I get a painful pit in my stomach.

CAIR Chicago and its partners plan to meet with Tom Ricketts — Joe’s son and Chairman of the Cubs — on February 8 to, in the words of Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, “discuss concrete steps to regain the trust of the community, the fans, and city, as well as to recommit to the principles of ‘Everybody In.’” We will see what comes out of that meeting.

In the meantime, Dr. Shoshara’s last words were most poignant:

I love the Cubs, but I love my family and my country more. As an American and a Muslim, I won’t continue to support an organization willing to take my money but not willing to stand up for my right to be both. Until the Cubs organization works collaboratively with my community to call out bigotry with concrete measures, I’m out.

I’m out, too.