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Are Cubs fans racist?

Another racist t-shirt has popped up outside Wrigley Field, which raises the question: Are Cubs fans racist? Or is it just the street vendors outside Wrigley? Or maybe the t-shirt makers? And do these folks know it's 2009 and not 1949?

This newest version shows the outline of a man cutting grass and says "Pujols mows my lawn." Another one says "Zambrano mows my lawn," which is odd to see outside Wrigley; vendors, I suppose, were hoping to sell it to Cardinals fans this past weekend. There's also one targeting White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen that says "Ozzie mows Wrigley Field."

That one first hit the streets last month, and while some reporters questioned whether it was racist, Ozzie largely deflated the issue by having fun with it. He bought one of the t-shirts and wore it when the Sox visited Wrigley.

"I might cut lawns, but I don't stand in the rain selling T-shirts," he said. That's kinda funny, but let's be clear: the shirts are racist. They play on stereotypes - that Hispanics do yard work and other menial jobs - and they are targated only at members of that group. On the Pujols and Zambrano ones the man is wearing a sombrero, just so there's no confusion. Hispanics wear big, funny hats and cut our grass... ha, ha, ha!

All of this comes on the heels of the infamous Fukodome t-shirt peddled outside Wrigley, where a squinty-eyed Cub says "Horry Kow." 

I've seen this on a handful of fans over the last year but apparently it's no longer available because the Cubs went after the maker for using a logo and not getting it licensed. I don't think they'll be able to do the same with the lawn mowing ones. There's no logo on it, and the vendors have no connection to the team.

Anyway, until I see a t-shirt that says Chase Utley or Joe Mauer mows my lawn you won't be able to convince me they're not racist. But does that mean Cubs fans are racist? I don't think so. Certainly the crowd at Wrigley Field is overwhelmingly white, and the fan base would never be described as racially diverse. But that can be said about many teams. Take a look at the crowd at the All-Star Game on Tuesday and see how racially diverse it is.

There have been incidents over the years: A few years back a black columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about being called "Aunt Jemima" outside Wrigley by some young whites; and LaTroy Hawkins said he received racist hate mail while pitching for the Cubs.

That's very troubling and disappointing, but I don't think it's at all indicative of Cubs fans as a whole. I've been going to games at Wrigley for 20 years and can't recall ever having heard a racial epithet hurled at any player. The bleacher bums were famous for standing at attention and saluting Gary 'Sarge' Matthews when he played for the Cubs in the early '80s, and for bowing to right fielder Andre Dawson. The Cubs have had two black managers, Don Baylor and Dusty Baker, which is two more than most Major League Baseball teams.

When Baker arrived and led the Cubs to the cusp of the World Series in 2003 a popular t-shirt around town read: 'In Dusty we trusty.' Of course, two years later these same fans despised Baker and were happy to see him go. That hatred always seemed out-sized to me and made me wonder if a white manager would have received the same treatment.

Oh well, race relations in the United States have always been complex. To those who would say that I'm overreacting to a silly t-shirt and being too politically correct, I'd argue otherwise. I'm not suggesting we arrest the vendors and build a bonfire with the shirts. I'm just calling it as I see it (and I'll leave discussion of the 'Green Gay Fudge Packers' t-shirt - see the top photo - for another day).

And there's one other thing Cubs fans have going for them: On Sunday night, with Pujols in the house, I didn't see a single fan wearing one of the t-shirts. Let's hope it stays that way and the shirts quietly fade away.

Andy Buchanan     



mil1727 07/14/2009

Are Cubs fans racist? No! I would like to address retort to the question of race relations and ethniticity at both Wrigley Field and the United States in general. Who reading this has not been a subject or victim, depending how you look at it, sometime in their life. How many of you have heard the following terms: Dumb Pollack, Stubborn Swede, Shanty Irish, Beligerant German, Stingy Scotchman, Wasp, old lady, NY Wop – Guido gave me the OK, Good Catholic - in jest, just have 5 kids? Let’s take the case you cite of a Black Reporter being called Aunt Jemima by “White Youth”. I feel it is racist to call them White Youth, they were White Street Thugs. Now, let’s address the hate mail to Cubs Pitcher, La Troy Hawkins – you don’t think our past Jewish quarter back for the Chicago Bears received hate mail? Still doesn’t make it right. And, in the case of Dusty Baker, There are two places I can think of, “You Don’t Win; It’s a Sin” – Wrigley Field and Notre Dame. Were they Racist when they hired their coaches or fired them?? Come a winner, leave a winner; I guarantee; herein lies the “No Racism”. I agree, the fan base is predominately white at Wrigley. However, take a look at the team. Are they also predominately white? Who is it the WHITE fan base are paying exorbitant ticket prices to watch? Are they predominately white, American Suburbanites? Take a look at who holds the highest office in our great nation. Are we racist here? Let’s put some humor in this. It is a great people who can laugh at themselves. Marilyn Schutte, Carlson, McMahon, Cichocki, Catholic w/5 kids.

sherpa 07/14/2009

I'm not sure if you're retort is to my article or just a more general one, but I said I don't think Cubs' fans are racist. I do think the t-shirts are. And if you're referring to Rex Grossman, he's not Jewish. I'm also not really clear on how it's racist to call someone a "white youth," yet you turn around and call them "White street thugs." ??

mil1727 07/20/2009

I would like to say I stand corrected regarding Rex Grossman. I didn’t do all my homework, but a good friend of mine Al Stein, Jewish, was quick to own him as one of his own when he first came to the Chicago Bears. And if you go on line there are so many sites asking if he is Jewish, that because of the way we Americans are quick to profile individuals; he still probably received plenty of mail. I am in agreement with you Sherpa. The Cubs fans are not racist. My referring to the white youths as white thugs and branding them as racist was in jest. I feel branding people white, black, purple is being racist. What I was trying to say here, I guess I did not make myself clear is these youths, because of their color were not necessarily racist. They were definitely street thugs, hoodlums, gang members, or just plain smart mouthed youth – consider the source. I feel there are many people out there who do not voice an opinion or print on t shirts, yet are quite racist. That doesn’t make them right either. Way too much emphasis is put on black and white. It adds fuel to the fire. When we as a nation can accept people for what they are, regardless of their differences, we will begin to live in a much better world. As for the t shirt guys, it’s sad this is the only way they can make money, at the expense of another. And that certainly doesn’t make it right, but even they may not be racist. I blame the stupid people buying them. I happen to be a great fan of Denzel Washington, not because he is a great black actor, but because I feel he is just one heck of a great actor. When people start acknowledging others for their great accomplishments and not labeling them whether by nationality, color, handicapped, quotas, etc.; we will see the word discrimination disappear. By constantly labeling people, it just fuels the fire and keeps it going. Let us all be great Americans whether black, white, or purple people eaters!! I am not addressing you; I love your guides – have picked up several of them when visiting the different stadiums, great info. Also, every Ohio State Fan should have a copy of your book on info even Ohio Staters may not know – great info!!

wfvendor13 07/01/2010

I am a Tshirt vendor outside Wrigley Field. You might say the shirts are a little racy, but thats not intended. The "Horry Kow" was made by Asians. It was a riot! We couldn't keep them in stock. Everyone and I mean Everyone wanted that shirt! From every ethnic background. And the "mows my lawn" shirt. Come on! Thats just funny! Are we raciest?? No! We just do what we have to do to put food on the table every night. We print shirts that we know will sell. Cant we just get through one day without race being a issue?? Everyday I hear something about it!! Maybe if people would just lighten up and quit with the "race card" everyone would start getting along. The last thing I want to hear from anyone is that I said or done something that offended a particular race. There is only one race: the human race. Just lighten up!!

wfvendor13 07/01/2010

Another thing. Its always articles like this that get people stirred up over something that probably wouldn't bother them anyways. But having some article throw it in your face, making you look at yourself and think "Oh wow thats kind of offensive. Maybe I should be mad instead of laughing at that shirt earlier." This world will never be a perfect place while there somebody out there bringing certain thing to everyone's attention. Getting people fired up and in return..HATE. I, for one, didn't even catch it before until I read this article. I never put the two and two together. Thats what offends me about this article. Now every time I see that shirt..Im going to think about this stupid article.