Chicago Cubs: Announcement of new TV deal brings controversy

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs announced a new partnership with Sinclair Media on Wednesday, which includes the creation of a new sports TV network. However, Sinclair has a bad reputation in some circles.

There have long been rumors of the Chicago Cubs getting their own TV network with exclusive broadcast rights. It’s now a reality.

The Cubs will walk away from their 20 percent stake in NBC Sports Chicago after the 2019 season and appear exclusively on their new network, called Marquee Sports Network.

This isn’t exactly a new plan, as Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said that the Cubs ownership has been looking at starting their own TV network since they bought the franchise in 2009.

The Cubs announced a partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group, who will create Marquee Sports Network. As of now, the network will cover every Cubs game as well as other regional sporting events.

This is a big change for Cubs fans as there will no longer be any Cubs games on ABC, NBCSports Chicago or WGN. National sports networks like ESPN will occasionally show Cubs games. The Marquee network could come with a higher cost as well.

The Los Angeles Dodgers tried this same thing in 2014 when they created their own network, and it backfired in a way.

While the deal made the team lot of money, local cable providers decided not to carry the network as it was too much of a cost to them. Many LA fans now can’t watch the Dodgers locally. This situation is one that Cubs fans should fear.

Sinclair itself has had image issues for years as they’re seen as a far-right news network that’s trying to kill local news. As of April 2018, the company owned 193 local news stations.

The company was looking to expand by acquiring Tribune Media and all of its local stations and publications. There was a major backlash over this proposal, and the deal fell through.

There was also the issue of this infamous video that Sinclair was behind. Sinclair sends scripts for “Must-Air” commentary segments to local stations around the country. Someone synced up a clip of dozens of local news anchors reciting the exact same words from the script.

The video went viral, and a lot of people who were unaware of Sinclair got a bad first impression of the company. Last Week Tonight host John Oliver skewered Sinclair in this segment.

By now most Cubs fans know of the owners of the Cubs, the Ricketts family, and know their reputation as well as their vast wealth. The family has been involved in the financial industry for decades, but they’re appearing more often in the headlines for their political connections.

Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the family, had some very racist and bigoted emails leaked in early February and it wasn’t pretty. His son Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, was quick to say that his father has nothing to do with day-to-day operations for the team.

But it’s not quite that simple. Joe Ricketts may not be there every day, but there’s no doubt it was his money that bought this team. He explicitly said so in a 2010 panel about entrepreneurship.

Joe Ricketts sold 34 million shares of TD Ameritrade stock to cover the cost of acquiring the Cubs. This team wouldn’t be owned by the Ricketts’ without his full approval and funding.

With that knowledge, it’s much more difficult to justify that Joe Ricketts has little to do with the team. Tom Ricketts is obviously involved in day-to-day operations of the team, but he also has political connections.

Tom is the finance chair for the Republican National Committee and will lead the fundraising effort for the re-election of Donald Trump. His brother Pete, also a part of Cubs ownership, is the Republican governor of Nebraska.

As much as the ownership group doesn’t want to admit it, their political ties run deeper than just some racist forwarded emails from Joe Ricketts. The family has poured money into political campaigns for the past decade.

If Cubs fans are wondering if Tom and Pete Ricketts share the same views as their father, I think that’s a valid question to ask.

Partnering with Sinclair isn’t going to help the perception around the family, but I doubt they care. This is a shortsighted move with only maximum profits in mind.

Related Story. Why the Cubs will still contend in 2019. light

There’s a string of controversies that have followed the Cubs this offseason. Between the Addison Russell situation, the leaked emails and this TV deal the team is starving for good press.

Signing a high-profile free agent outfielder with a childhood friend on the team may distract from these controversies, but Cubs fans shouldn’t hold their breath.