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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.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.