Ethics Quiz: The Cubs Fan Ban

(I have already made up my mind about this one, but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise…hence the quiz.)

At the start of the bottom of the third inning of the May 7th Marlins-Cubs game, the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast went to analyst Doug Glanville for some “in the stands” commentary. Behind Glanville,  , a fan in a hoodie waved hello to the camera, flashed a peace sign, then made an upside-down OK hand gesture with his fingers.

Always looking for outrages and ways to hype racial tension, sharp-eyed activists flooded  the Cubs  with tweets like this:

@cubs @dan_bernstein What say you about this racist fan flashing a white power sign behind Mr. Glanville at tonight’s game?

— Marc Lipkin (@Flipkin) May 8, 2019

Whether or not that gesture is “racist” is a matter of opinion, debate, and context. Annoyingly and self-consciously “woke” lawyer-NBC sports blogger Craig Calcaterra explains:

It’s worth noting that this gesture is . . . a somewhat complicated one. While the Cubs are properly investigating this, the full context of it and all that surrounds it is worth appreciating before reaching a conclusion on the matter.

As explained here by the Anti-Defamation league, that “OK”-style gesture was originally cast as a “white power” symbol as a trolling hoax by some associated with the alt-right movement. The idea: lots of people make “OK” symbols on camera and, if enough people believed it actually meant “white power,” people who are not engaging in racist behavior would be accused of doing so, thereby undermining legitimate claims of racism as liberal hysteria or people crying wolf.

Then a “funny” thing happened: actual white supremacists started adopting the gesture, allegedly ironically. Irony sort of fails, however, when the person acting “ironically” in this way is, in fact, a white supremacist. Mostly because we are what we do, even if we think we’re acting in such a way “ironically” or even if we’re trying to muddy the waters in some effort to lean-in to a some group identity or belief system. As such, if someone who is cognizant of all of this stuff flashes this symbol as a “joke,” it’s still an offensive act.

It is also worth noting that the symbol flashed here is also similar to the so-called “circle game” with which most people who attended middle school at one time or another are familiar. Kind of a “made you look” thing. Which, in addition to the common “OK” symbol, was something the trolls who created the originally phony “white power” narrative were trying to make people confuse for racism.

Offensive! Hate fingers! Must be punished!

The Cubs, and I will say “of course” because no organization in sports apparently ever has the guts to say, “Yeah, fine: forget it. This is trivial,” announced with great gravity that it was “investigating”..

The statement:

We are currently investigating an incident that occurred during the Cubs’ May 7 broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago while reporter Doug Glanville was on the air. An individual seated behind Mr. Glanville used what appears to be an offensive hand gesture associated with racism.

Such ignorant and repulsive behavior is not tolerated at Wrigley Field. We are reviewing the incident thoroughly because no one should be subjected to this type of offensive behavior.

Any derogatory conduct should be reported immediately to our ballpark staff. Any individual behaving in this manner will not only be removed from the ballpark, but will be permanently banned from Wrigley Field.

Boy, that’s some investigation, since the team has already decided what the fan meant, or that whatever he meant, the fact that he dared to make an “O” with his digits made him unfit to attend a baseball game. I find it fascinating, but typical, that even though Calcaterra understands and explains that the gesture is ambiguous, he still endorses an “investigation.” Here was what I wrote on the NBC baseball site:

Please note: this sports writer, an alleged lawyer, actually applauds a baseball team investigating a 100% legal hand gesture so it can punish the gesturer in order to signal its oppressive virtue and wokeness to the Great Enlightened.

The Cubs’ statement and Craig’s endorsement are both more offensive than an OK sign. Imagine–the moment can and should have been ignored for the trivia it was, but some crazed social justice warriors demanded to the Cubs that the finger-miscreant be tracked down, shamed and punished, and the Cubs, rather than having the common sense and perspective to say, “Oh, get a life, you fools” complied because they feared a Twitter mob attack. Then Craig gives the gesture even more publicity, pretending to be rational but still endorsing the investigation. And if the fan says, “Oh, no, I was just saying that everything was OK!”, how exactly will the Cubs prove otherwise? Torture him? Truth serum?

This would have been a valid story if Craig had the sense and integrity to condemn the Cubs’ hysterical over-reaction. Instead, he supports it.

I expected to be slugged with a thousand “thumbs down,” since the readership on that site is only slightly less leftist that Craig is, but no! The “likes” are running ahead of the “dislikes” 3-1. There is hope.

The other shoe dropped yesterday:  The Cubs announced that they tracked down the fan and have banned him from Wrigley field for life. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said that team execs met and decided it was more likely the gesture was used in a “racist way,” and banned the fan. You know, that old, traditional “more likely” standard.

Translation: they decided that it was easier to unjustly ban a single fan than endure an orchestrated boycott or some other mass protest.

The Cubs  got the fan’s contact information via ticket vendor StubHub—StubHub should be condemned for this— and sent the miscreant a letter informing him of their decision. That’s right: the investigation didn’t include speaking with him , or getting his side of the story. Now the fan can be prosecuted for criminal trespass if he tries to enter the ballpark.

Team president Theo Epstein called the incident “truly disgusting,” and said “It gave me shivers to watch that, that that would take place at Wrigley Field.” That’s funny…I find it disgusting that a business would ban a citizen from its premises for life based on fear, assumptions, and a fake “investigation” without any due process whatsoever, in order to police what fans do with their fingers and make sure they toe the line regarding “acceptable” expressions.

But as I said, I’m willing to be convinced that I am wrong and the Cubs are right, so here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was it ethical for the Cubs to investigate and ban the fan for his circle gesture?

Oh, I nearly forgot…not to influence you, but here is how silly this has become in our fair nation—this is how many TV stations and websites reported the story:


37 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Cubs Fan Ban

  1. It is also worth noting that the symbol flashed here is also similar to the so-called “circle game” with which most people who attended middle school at one time or another are familiar. Kind of a “made you look” thing.

    The “made you look” thing is EXACTLY what it meant back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. There was a LOT of my fellow soldiers during the 90’s, many of whom happened to be black, that were playing this nonsensical “game” all the time. It was juvenile nonsense, I never understood the concept, never participated in it, I just ignored it. One of my old Army buddies from way back then, also a black guy, STILL does it to this day, he’s even posted photos of it on Facebook.

    • Do you think you could recreate the conditions of the goat curse? Another century or so without a World Series win would do them some good.

      Full disclosure: I have hereditary Cardinals loyalty.

        • I don’t know that they wouldn’t (though flyover country has some weakened but remaining buffers), but they didn’t and the Cubs did. Imagine if this had been the Yankees, and the sentiment would be similar.

          (I never really understood the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry; it just is like a generations-old antebellum blood feud. I’m not even much of a sports fan, but I boo and hiss when they’re in the lead like it’s an unconscious genetic tendency. “Of course the Cubs harass their own fans, pbuh!”)

  2. It’s the made you look thing, granted their doing it wrong because you’re supposed to do it below the waist, but still.

    Seen this incident posted in several meme groups on Facebook that I frequent already, it’s hilarious


  3. I think it’s ridiculous. Just because *some* white supremacists have adopted the symbol does not mean it is, in and of itself, a white supremacist symbol. I make the okay sign all the time without it meaning anything other than, “Okay”.

    But, to play Devil’s Advocate here, what is the purpose of giving the Okay sign on TV? Is it possible he meant it as a white power symbol? Or did he give it ironically to troll those who believe it’s a white power symbol.

    I think the Niggardly Principles apply here. The SJWs and, by extension, the Cubs fall into the First Niggardly Principle: they are assuming racism. Should it turn out that the fan was being stupid about flashing the okay sign, knowing it would trigger fools, the Second Niggardly Principle applies.

    At least, that’s my take on it.

    • I am a Phillistine. I had to look up “circle game” and this hand gesture. If the fan was playing the circle game, he should have slugged the reporter on the shoulder if the reporter looked.

      As the white power, it (I think) comes from some bozos interpreting thusly (I hate that word):

      The right hand is used to form a circle with the thumb and index finger. If properly viewed, the three remaining, uncircled fingers form a “W”, while the thumb and the index finger form a “P”, which then, taken together, read “WP”, which translates to “White Power”, though I am not sure why it does not mean “Washington Post” or “Where’s Portia?” What about the left hand? Wouldn’t that read “PW”? If so, could “PW” be a reference to “Power Windows” which are available on most motor vehicles as well as the 11th studio release of my beloved Canadian prog rock exemplars, Rush?

      As to your question, of course the Cubs organization caved. I like the investigation: “We must find this fellow and punish him for what he did, after we conclude that what he did was what we already know he did.” Kafka would approved, as would the Gestapo and the KGB.


  4. No.

    In fact, this sort of thing will be much more effective in recruiting white people to the Stormfront White Nationalist Community than anything Stormfront could possibly do,.

      • When the unethical push back starts from those being maligned and discriminated against, they will.

        That will really be ‘white power:’ you know, those who actually pay the majority of the money to see baseball?

  5. As a Brewers fan, I could just slam the Cubs here on all grounds. It is not only my right to do so, but some would argue it is my moral and ethical DUTY as a Brewers fan to slam them, and just be done with it.

    I won’t.

    The Cubs did need to look into the incident, given that it took place on TV, and that the game was arguably nationally televised due to the access provided by MLBTV. There are potential implications fro the gesture.

    That said, the Cubs were the Cubs. They did not conduct a proper investigation into the incident.

    The sum total of their “investigation” was to somehow induce StubHub to provide the fan’s identity. Was StubHub threatened? Did they just roll over? We’ll never know for sure. What we do know for sure was that one way or another, StubHub violated that fan’s privacy.

    Then, rather than take the two hours it would take to call, or send a representative for a meeting, just delivered a summary ban for life from Wrigley via letter. It was a massive overreaction without even determining what the fan was thinking – or if he was thinking at all.

    This is worse for the Cubs than just blowing off the incident would have been. The usual outrage machines would have moved on after a few days. This, though, will last longer, and be far more damaging. Many conservative Cubs fans will no longer bother with the trek to Wrigley. Some will probably change their allegiance to different teams.

    StubHub will also face some very real problems in the future. Care to bet other ticket sellers will get an uptick in business from people concerned about privacy?

    • Under what circumstances would the Cubs need to investigate this? If a crime was committed on the screen, would not the FCC in conjunction with local police investigate? The man made a symbol with his hand. That is protected speech under the 1st Amendment. He did not commit a crime. Therefore, no investigation is warranted. I’m with Jack on this one; the Cubs should have said that whoever was saying anything should understand that there is no problem, and that everyone should move on with their lives.

      • The ambiguity of the gesture is such that they did need to find out what was going on. Was it just stupidity, or a case of racial harassment? If the former, then say, “No problem, just someone being stupid. Everyone move on with your lives.”

        If the latter, then they probably DID need to take some sort of action – with a ban being an option – because ANY harassment should NOT be tolerated at a ball park (or anywhere else). It can be a fine line in some cases, but that is what warrants looking into it.

        If I go to a ball game, I do not want to be harassed for my race, religion, or any other factor. I would hope that my Brewers would permanently ban anyone who harassed another individual for being a Cubs fan at Miller Park.

        The Cubs needed to look into the matter. They did so in an incompetent fashion that will do more harm than good.

        • I disagree with that. There’s nothing to warrant an investigation. The standard for First Amendment cases, currently, is whether the speech was intended to incite criminal activity and did so immediately afterwards. There is zero evidence to indicate that the fan was acting in a racist manner with this gesture. If other fans were complaining to stadium staff that the fan was acting belligerently to other fans, then I can see security investigating that. But there is no indication that the fan was doing anything of the sort. Putting the ok symbol up because you’re on camera is not, and never should be, a reason to investigate anyone. Even the threat of investigation can stifle free speech. How many people would want to endure an investigation, even if they’re exonerated, just for making a gesture on TV?

          • Yeah, this witchhunt is more damaging than any gesture, be it a middle finger or Vulcan salute. Big Brother will investigate others’ opinions of what you do and punish you. You have no defense in BB’s court and you will be puished for life.

            If I were the fan I would be mad as hell, pick another team, and rethink any left tendencies at being hung out to dry. (and thousands of things like this will be why the left loses- you can’t get allegiance when you turn on your own people as examples)

      • Totally dependent on the myriad rows of unreadable jargon, etc. in the agreement you have to click something to agree to when you buy the ticket, I bet… And I bet StubHub is totally protected because their lawyers aren’t dumb. That’s not a vote on whether it’s right, but just a guess based on actually reading some of those agreements before clicking and marveling at how little they promise for my money.

  6. Life long Cubs hater here. Never surprised by anything Cubs and stupidity related.
    But I may be biased, just a bit.

    Now my White Sox and fandom have nothing in their history worthy of this kind of attention. SARC

    Keep subverting reality to the woke. This will not end well for our society.

  7. What is the basis for saying that the people who came up with the ‘OK’ troll were ‘alt-right’? That is just inserted into the sentence to bias the viewer. What if the person who did it was a rabid liberal who delegitimize people who falsely accuse others of racism? What if ‘white supremacists didn’t ‘adopt’ this symbol, but just use the OK symbol like everyone else?’ (Hitler drank water, all who drink water are Nazis!)

    The Anit-Defamation Leagues own site on this does not consider the OK symbol to be a ‘white power’ symbol by default. Their only example of it ACTUALLY being used as a white power symbol is Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch, NZ shooter who used it at his courthouse appearance. The ADL refers to him as a white supremacist, using the OK symbol in its new, white supremacy form. However, he wasn’t a white supremacist, he was a communist, and his use of it was a false flag hoax, much like his attack on the mosque.

    So, not a symbol of white supremacy. The OK symbol troll, doing just what it was supposed to do, expose knee-jerk racial fascism among the left. The reporting on this was deceptive and malicious. I find the ADL reporting alarmist and anti-American as well. I now know that people who believe in following their oath to ‘defend the Constitution’ are dangerous extremists. Good to know.

  8. Wonder what recourse there is against StubHub viz. its privacy requirements and terms of service.

    But what I also find odd about the Cubs “investigation” is that they have concluded that the ticket buyer and the ticket user are the same person. Wonder what basis they had for that?

  9. I wonder if the fan really WAS contacted and banned? The quickest way to make this simply go away is to SAY you banned the offender, and never actually do so.

    That said, I would bet that this fellow could get financial backing to sue the ever-luvin’ crap out of the Cubs, the ticket vendor, and the individuals who made this decision. First Amendment rights were violated. Make the progressive pukes (and those who caved) learn that such comes with a price.

    This will not stop until the pain of the behavior rises to intolerable. That the push back will happen is human nature.

  10. I think the more obvious lawsuit would be for defamation of character. This person was branded a racist on television. The organization then stated in an article that an investigation confirmed this person was a racist and harassed a black reporter and this was serious enough that the person was banned for life. This is something that could get someone fired and unable to find work for life.

  11. Pretty soon, 4Chan is going to take up the challenge that NOT wearing blackface is a sign of White Supremacy and since the white supremacists won’t be seen wearing blackface then everyone will have to wear blackface to prove they aren’t white supremacists.

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