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Cubs' banning fan from Wrigley Field for questionable hand gesture is peak 2019

All is not well at the Friendly Confines.
Credit: AP
A general view of Wrigley Field and the newly renovated bleachers during the second inning of a baseball game between the the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Chicago. Chicago won 6-3. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The Chicago Cubs have won 10 of their last 11 games.

However, they’ve made headlines for other reasons even though they lead the Milwaukee Brewers by one game in the National League Central division as of Friday morning.

The first was Wednesday’s return of infielder Addison Russell from a 40-game suspension for violation of MLB’s domestic violence policy. The league suspended Russell after an investigation into allegations of emotional, verbal and physical abuse against his ex-wife Melisa Reidy.

The second happened Tuesday. NBC Sports Chicago reporter Doug Glanville was doing his in-game report when a fan, flashed the peace sign and then followed it up with an upside-down okay sign. Cubs management decided to ban the fan from Wrigley Field because the gesture is interpreted by some as a sign for white supremacy.

The fan has not been publicly identified.

“The incident last night is truly disgusting. It gave me shivers to watch that, to see that take place at Wrigley Field,” said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. “Appropriately, we’ve made clear how egregious and unacceptable that behavior is, and there’s no place for that in society, in baseball, and Wrigley Field. The person responsible for that gesture will never be welcomed back at Wrigley Field.”

Glanville also released his own statement, saying in part, "I applaud the responsiveness of both the Chicago Cubs organization and NBC Sports in investigating this matter."

Glanville admitted he didn't know what happened until after the segment.

There are conflicting reports on if the Cubs ever reached out to the fan. The Chicago Sun Times reports the Cubs tried calling the fan on the phone multiple times. However, ESPN’s Will Cain said the team hasn’t spoken to him and has no interest in hearing his side.

Is it likely the fan would flash a peace sign and then immediately make a racist gesture? He probably wanted his friends to see him on TV.

Perhaps the connotation of the gesture is worse than its denotation. Sometimes, perception is the reality. For example, the terrorist and self-described racist charged with killing 51 Muslim worshippers at mosques in New Zealand has flashed the symbol.

However, Anti-Defamation League said caution must be used when evaluating this symbol. The ADL acknowledged in September 2018 the “OK” hand gesture is a hoax by members of the website 4chan and is not a common white supremacist hand sign.

The ADL found:

“In 2017, the “okay” hand gesture acquired a new and different significance thanks to a hoax by members of the website 4chan to falsely promote the gesture as a hate symbol, claiming that the gesture represented the letters “wp,” for “white power.” The “okay” gesture hoax was merely the latest in a series of similar 4chan hoaxes using various innocuous symbols; in each case, the hoaxers hoped that the media and liberals would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist.”

We may never know the fan’s intent or his background. Regardless of your interpretation of the gesture, there’s no doubt it’s sophomoric.

The gesture has also been used as part of the “circle game,” in which someone tries to trick a friend by making them look at their hand. The person then typically punches the friend on the shoulder.

A basic Twitter or Google search finds several public figures, politicians and athletes using the okay sign. It’s especially prominent in the NBA when a player makes a three-point shot. There’s also the okay hand emoji.

Context matters.

Wrigley Field has dealt with its share of problems over the years. It includes former Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones and former manager Dusty Baker saying they received racist hate mail from fans. Former pitcher LaTroy Hawkins also said he was harassed. Also, who could forget last September’s fight among fans in the bleachers during Hispanic Heritage Night?

MLB has also launched an investigation into racist messages sent on social media to Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr.

For now, the team must grapple with paying shortstop Russell $3.4 million for the 2019 season. The team also decided to trade for closer Aroldis Chapman – another player who served a domestic violence suspension – during the 2016 World Series championship team.

The Cubs have made their decision on this fan’s silly behavior, but have decided to excuse their players’ behavior. Playing Russell this season and Chapman in 2016 is proof of that.

Shouldn’t it be the opposite, especially at a stadium nicknamed the Friendly Confines?

Mark Bergin is a journalist with 10News WTSP. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email him at mbergin@wtsp.com.

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