NBC Sports

Cubs investigating fan allegedly flashing ‘white power’ sign behind NBC Sports reporter

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Chicago Cubs Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said in a statement released early this morning that the club is investigating a fan using what appeared to be a hand gesture associated with the white power movement while NBC Sports Chicago reporter Doug Glanville did a TV segment in front of him.

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.

The incident can be seen from the fan in the gray sweatshirt here:

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. Which means that the Cubs have layers upon layers of garbage to sift through, basically.

Which also means that, even if the context in which the symbol was used — behind a black reporter where it would obviously be seen by TV viewers — is certainly troubling and is worthy of investigation by the Cubs, we should exercise at least some caution before making a definitive determination about what this fan was doing and why.

Consider the Concrete Donut

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Ben Schulman wrote a long, interesting article about stadium architecture over at The Hardball Times today. He asks us to consider the old concrete donut stadiums — multipurpose parks like Three Rivers and The Vet — and to think about what we have gained by their near-extinction. And what we’ve lost.

The article starts out with what I feared would be too much misplaced nostalgia for the Brutalist, functional places that no longer exist outside of Oakland, with the now de rigueur references to astroturf and weird 1970s baseball. It backs away from that early on, though, and presents what I feel is a thoughtful look at the various approaches to building a ballpark. Stadium geeks and architecture geeks will find much to love here.

From a personal perspective, I have a love/hate relationship with newer parks. I spent a good deal of time going to places like Riverfront Stadium when I was a kid and do not miss them at all. But I also think there have been a lot of missteps in the last 25 years or so too.

Most new parks are pleasant and comfortable places to take in a ballgame, but so many of them are totally unimaginative and uninspiring from an architectural point of view. I am not fan of nostalgia, and so many of them — particularly the ones built in the 90s — were fueled by a great deal of misguided retro-ism that looks backwards. I suspect this is the case because either (a) no one had the guts or vision to look forward; and/or (b) they felt they could make easier bucks by catering to people who think everything went to hell once Eisenhower left office than by doing something bold. To be fair, there are examples of newer parks that eschew the faux old-timey vibe to greater degrees — Target Field in Minneapolis and Marlins Park in Miami come to mind — and I tend to prefer those to more backward-looking places. Again, architecturally speaking.

I think the sweet spot — and the linked article touches on this a bit — are ballparks which think bigger than the bland and dreary functionalism of the 1960s and 70s but which eschew derivative, traditionalist approaches. Parks which were built with then-modern sensibilities and saw their vision through without compromise. Dodger Stadium is a fine, modernist example of this. So too is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, about which I wrote a few years ago. They had a great opportunity to do this in Chicago in the late 80s but muffed it. I think Marlins Park could fall into that category if (a) there is ever anything approaching memorable baseball there; and (b) if they stop being afraid of its bold aspects and stop trying to turn it into a vanilla monument to its vanilla owner. The common denominator, I suppose, is that these parks weren’t and aren’t trying to cater to the childhoods of local fans.

Anyway, good read on a slow news day.