Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Leave your racism at home. And while you’re at it, leave yourself there too.

I’m a bit embarrassed this got past me yesterday, but Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a disturbing feature that I’d like to comment on today. In said feature, Wittenmyer wonders how a potentially volatile African American player like Milton Bradley will interact with a notoriously racist Wrigley crowd.

Now here’s a full disclaimer here before I get started. I'm a white male of upper middle class status. I have never experienced any racism directed at me in my life and I have not participated in any racism directed at others. That does not, however, mean I am ignorant towards its existence.

It’s no secret that there is racism at Wrigley (and all across baseball for that matter), but perhaps I’ve been too naive to realize its full extent at our “Friendly” Confines. In the Sun-Times article, Wittenmyer wrote that several African Americans - including Jaque Jones, LaTroy Hawkins and Dusty Baker - have been on the receiving end of racial slurs, hate mail and even physical threats while being members of the Cubs.

In the last five seasons alone, Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones and pitcher LaTroy Hawkins said they were the targets of racist taunts and fan mail. Jones also said in 2006 that he became the victim of racial slurs and threats on his cell phone when the number got out.

Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker said that same season that he received enough threatening, racist mail in Chicago that his wife and young son no longer would attend games. - Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun-Times

The article even said that current Angels outfielder Torii Hunter openly admitted to placing the Cubs on his no-trade list a few years ago for this very reason.

And the cherry on top of the racist sundae (which I’m sure is made with vanilla ice cream) is that the story ran on Jackie Robinson Day. While every team in the majors was celebrating the color barrier that Robinson broke, our fan base was been singled out as proponents of the very racism that kept black players out of this great game.

Now I know not all Cubs fans are racist. In fact, I truly believe there is only a small percentage of fans out there who would participate in such abuse. But we don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to being racially tolerant at Wrigleyville.

Currently, there are 11 players on the Cubs roster who are not white (12 if you count David Patton...clear is not the same as being white). Those players are Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, Luis Vizcaino, Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome, Joey Gathright and Alfonso Soriano.

That’s a really high portion of this Cubs team that does not look like you Mr. or Ms. White Cubs Fan. Hell, some of them don’t even speak the same language as you - so your racism is probably falling on deaf ears anyways. But regardless of your personal feelings to those who look different than what you see in the mirror, why hate them? These players represent you and your city. How much do you think they like playing for people who openly hate them because of their skin color? Seems that you are creating quite the contradiction. You want your team to win yet you hate some of the players so much as to threaten them? Hmmm.

Also, might I mention that you are paying the salaries of these minorities so they can go out and buy minority things and participate in minority events and support their minority families that will eventually produce more minorities? For every ticket, hat, hot dog and beer (aka racism fuel for some of you) that you buy, your hard earned dollars go into the pockets of minority players on the Cubs. So here’s a novel idea for all you racists out there: Stop buying tickets and Cubs paraphernalia. Stop coming to the games and stop wearing Cubbie blue. In essence, stop being a Cubs fan. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Now I’ve been involved with some friendly heckling before. Sure, the language could reach rated-R levels at times, but I never went after someone because of their skin color. You might dislike someone for what they do or how badly they play, but it is not OK to hate someone because they have a different pigmentation. Grow up already.

I’m calling out all Cubs fans right now to act. If you hear an individual using hateful, racially charged language towards anyone (Cubs player, opposing player, fans) at a Cubs game then please ask security to remove them from the stadium. I’m all for free speech, but your lack of compassion and understanding for human life has no place in our stadium. Just stay home if you’re going to be like that and yell at your TV.

You know, a friend and I were once talking about what is the worst thing a white person can be called by someone else. There is a very nasty word that starts with “N” that African Americans are called, but what is the equivalent for white people? After much debate, we decided there was no word that came even close to the “N” word, but rather there is a term that labels whites as something terrible. That term is “racist”, and just one is one too many in Cubdom. If you’re a racist, get out.

Get out of our stadium, get out of our bars, get out of our fan base. And never come back.

It's sad

But some people are just idiots. And will remain idiots until the day they die...possibly spawning more idiots along the way.

As for the rest of us? We can do what you just did in a passive format, or we can be active in one of two ways: 1) confront the idiots ourselves and risk getting a quick trip to the dentist's office, or 2) scurry to the nearest usher. Is #2 cowardly? Sure. But does it help achieve the goal we want and save a new generation of kids from hearing outdated prejudices? Yeppers.

I read that article and was

I read that article and was embarassed. I had no idea Wrigley was that bad. I've sat in the bleachers, and like you said, there's tons of heckling going on, but I haven't been in earshot of it being racially motivated.

The worst I think I saw was late in 2007 when the Chicago Gay Mens' Chorus sang the national anthem and some 'phobe starting crabbing with the anti-gay speak and refused to stand up during the anthem. Those of us around him gave him a lashing of our own. So what if a bunch of gay guys are singing? It's your flippin national anthem, stand the hell up or get out of the place. I'd rather hear the CGMC every day compared to some of the warbly types that come in to sing. They were really good.

More from Witenmyer on this

More from Witenmyer on this today. Here's the link for anyone interested...


Some Truth, but I feel overblown

I will preface everything I am about to say with this statement: I don't tolerate racism, I don't like to associate people that use such slurs, and I generally call those people out on it (and that includes statements against gays too. Next time you ever hear someone use the "f" word, explain to them the origin: the phrase literally means "sticks" or "bundle of sticks" and became common use because Hitler thought that gays burned better in the ovens at camps).

I was both shocked and disappointed that there is a stigma of racism in Wrigley Field. I have no idea why race would even play a part of the taunts or general enjoyment of the game. For that we have to hold our own fan base accountable: if you hear it, do something about it. I don't want to have that stigma attached to myself, nor do I want it to my team.

At the same time the Wittemeyer article troubles me as it feels a bit overblown. He seems to take a very skewed stance that Cubs fans only boo black players that are on their team. Did we boo Latroy? Yep. But it was probably more about the fact he couldn't hold a lead in the 9th than his race. Did we boo Jock Strap? Yep. More due to the fact that he can't throw a ball more than 4 feet with out it hittign the ground and a near-Mendoza batting average. Cubs fans have also booed prominent blacks such as Todd Hundley, Jason Marquis, Brant Brown, and Michael Barrett. Oh.. wait.

Do I condone booing? No. I actually don't believe in boo'ing your own player in any situation. However, these boos that Gordon points out as evidence of racism have been quite equal opportunity throughout time: white, black, asian, etc. Death threats are another thing, and that I have no answer for. To me that is the most cowardly, gutless, and ignorant thing I have heard about. Even worse, we aren't the only team with such a stigma (Red Sox, for one).

Cub fans: be proactive and help get rid of this stigma. Promote tolerance by preaching intolerance for such ignorant actions by fans. Let's all contribute to weed out the small percentage of fans that are dragging our reputations through the mud and make Wrigley once again the Friendly Confines.

Breaking the Cycle

First I would like to say, good job on a well written post Kyle. I for one am embarrassed to be a Cubs fan, when on the celebration of Jackie Robinson Day some in Chicago still to this day have not moved beyond racist behavior. Its sad, but its a culture that exists inside Wrigley Field, and its a well deserved black-eye for the cubs entire organization. Simply put, something has to give & change must take place.

I have been to many ballparks throughout the country; 2 White Sox stadiums, 2 Cardinals stadiums, the Pirates new one, the Reds old one, the Marlins, the Royals, the Indians, the Brewers old stadium, the Twins baggy-dome, and of course Wrigley Field. The point is that at any of those other stadiums these issues don't even exist. I have been to more games in St Louis than anywhere unfortunately, but screaming obscenities at Busch Stadium is enough to get the boot from your seats and possibly the game altogether. I realize that I haven't been to all of the stadiums, but the only stadium I have ever been to where foul language and racist language goes unpunished is the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. Which is a shame, but a change on this level has to be spearheaded by a strong group & it must be supported and enforced by the in-stadium staff at Wrigley.

Baseball is a game, and at one time it was about entertainment, education, and more than anything it was for the kids of each community to enjoy. A great deal has changed. The almighty dollar takes precedent today above all else. I'm not positive if it is a situation where stadium personnel feel they shouldn't say anything to these people simply because they are paying customers & they don't want to lose their business, but whatever the excuse may be it doesn't warrant allowing these type of actions to continue.

It just goes to show that no matter how much a society progresses or how much information is available to anyone, ignorance still persists. In my personal opinion, nothing is going to change at Wrigley Field until ownership and those involved with stadium operations enforce a cultural change, with repercussions for those that don't adhere to the new policy. We live in a society where people feel that they are protected by a freedom of speech to say anything they want, so certain individuals test it and push it to the limit to see what they can get away with. Racist behavior at Wrigley is a prime example of that, and those that suffer most are those being persecuted and the young kids in the stands being exposed to that type of behavior. All of this sets a terrible example for the small number of kids that are in the stands on a daily basis, and it sends a message to them that that type of behavior is acceptable and goes without punishment - and it basically keeps the cycle going that much farther into the future.

Stepping into Wrigley Field almost gives one the feeling of taking a step back in time, its just unfortunate that the cubs' organization hasn't been able to eliminate the hateful and negative language/actions of what should be times already passed. The fact that the cubs' organization doesn't follow up on hateful and at times criminal actions such as what LaTroy Hawkins, Jacque Jones, and Dusty Baker endured in their time in Chicago is appalling and negligent at the very least. I had no idea about Torii Hunter's no-trade clause containing the Cubs for this reason, but it should send a very very loud message to the front office that there is a serious issue that is being ignored on a daily basis inside Wrigley Field.

I agree that individuals that feel the need to act this way should stay home, but I think the organization plays just as big a role in all of this, if not an even bigger one. The Cubs' organization has to step up to the plate as whole in tackling this issue, and most importantly of all they have to accept responsibility. Otherwise status-quo will remain the same and nothing will change. In that case, the Cubs don't even deserve to put a team on the field wearing the #42 on their backs on Jackie Robinson Day in 2010, or any year beyond that for that matter. If the organization can't correct this problem I think a fitting punishment would be to forfeit the game annually every April 15th, while donating all season ticket sales for the game to the Jackie & Rachel Robinson Foundation. Because unfortunately if the racial actions & slurs being shouted aren't loud enough to be heard by the front office, then I'm sure that the lost income & forfeited game will be heard loud and clear all the way up to the top executive.

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