Muslim community leaders in Chicago have called on Chelsea fans to reject cancel culture and embrace “decent man” Tom Ricketts and his bid to buy the Blues.
Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family are among the suitors locked in the bidding process to succeed Roman Abramovich as Chelsea owner.
Family patriarch Joe Ricketts was accused of Islamophobia in 2019, calling Muslims “my enemy” in leaked emails.
Chelsea fans have voiced their concerns via the social media hashtag ‘NoToRicketts’, while also raising issues with the club, though Joe Ricketts has no role at the Cubs nor in the bid to buy the Blues.
Ahmed Rehab from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has hailed Tom Ricketts’ response to the 2019 scandal, and has now urged Chelsea supporters not to write off the Cubs’ owner’s candidacy.
Rehab explained how he met with the Cubs hierarchy in the wake of those 2019 leaked emails, and the steps the Chicago baseball side’s chiefs have taken since to prove their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“We became aware as everybody did about Joe Ricketts, the father, making some pretty problematic anti-Muslim statements,” Rehab told the PA news agency.
“We were very offended, and immediately reached out to the Cubs at the time, Tom Ricketts and Julian Green, and they both responded.
Graffiti close to Stamford Bridge shows the depth of feeling around Chelsea’s restrictive operating licence (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
“They came to my office here in down town Chicago and we brought other Muslim organisations to the table for this meeting.
“We were very clear and very stern in our rebuke of Joe Ricketts and his statements, and the association to the Cubs.
“They distanced themselves, they apologised for the remarks, we went back and forth and we put together some concrete steps to show in action both the Cubs and the Ricketts family a genuine position on diversity and inclusiveness.
“I’m not going to buy into this fad in the world of cancel and destroy on a mistake. If one persists with no regret on a mistake and doubles down, that’s a different story.
“But if you’re someone who has made a mistake, and in this case it wasn’t even Tom; it was problematic but to be fair it was one step removed.
I’m not going to buy into this fad in the world of cancel and destroy on a mistake Ahmed Rehab from the Council on American-Islamic Relations
“And then for that person to do all they can, do all the right things. We had expectations as to what the right things would be and that’s what they did.”
Blues owner Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian-Israeli billionaire was then sanctioned by the UK Government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Vladimir Putin.
The Blues must operate under strict Government licence, with Abramovich unable to profit from Chelsea’s sale.
New York merchant bank the Raine Group is overseeing the sale process, with bidders continuing to wait to discover whether they have made the shortlist of candidates.
Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Sebastian Coe (pictured) have another potential offering lodged (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Archive)
LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly is among the front-runners for Chelsea, with the Ricketts family remaining confident on their bid.
Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Sebastian Coe have another potent offering lodged, with strong financing secured and both front men proud of the submission.
British property tycoon Nick Candy has also pushed hard with his bid for the Blues.
London-based global investment firm Centricus and Saudi Media Group are among the other bidders.
Rehab sits as executive director of CAIR’s Chicago office and works daily on the full range of civil rights issues.
Nick Candy, pictured, is among those bidding to buy Chelsea (Philip Toscano/PA) (PA Wire)
A keen Manchester United fan who was raised partly in Salford, Rehab revealed his weariness at continued criticism for Tom Ricketts on an issue where he believes the Cubs owners have made genuine steps forward.
The Ricketts issued a statement on Wednesday rejecting all hate “in the strongest possible terms”, with Rehab at pains to point out the family’s progress in the last three years.
“The United States is riveted by division and it’s died in the wool sides that can’t speak to one another, can’t reach over the aisle and can’t see the decency in each other,” said Rehab.
“And it’s so polarised I think it damages America and I’m seeing it in the world as well.
“So the reason I’m speaking out, and this is my initiative, is because of my personal values. I’m tired of seeing this, I think it’s unfair.
I think the Ricketts family with the Cubs are genuine about their desire for diversity and inclusion. And I feel they would do a good job owning a club like Chelsea Ahmed Rehab
“It’s fine if they don’t want the Ricketts family for whatever sporting reason, but it’s not fine to use my name or my action in the past to smear this person in an unfair manner. And I will speak out and say not in my name.
“He’s a decent man, I’ve dealt with him and Julian and the team at the Cubs. They are decent people, they love sports, they are in this for sporting reasons, they would be inclusive, they would embrace diversity.
“I’ve seen nothing but positive signs once I started dealing with them. I’ve seen the attacks and I can’t stand for it. For those who are interested in truth and fairness, it’s just not right.
“I see Tom Ricketts in the community here in Chicago, out there, interacting. I like that approachability, and I think any fan would.
“I think the Ricketts family with the Cubs are genuine about their desire for diversity and inclusion. And I feel they would do a good job owning a club like Chelsea.”