For those of you familiar with Chicago, there are few things as important as our sports teams. I grew up in a city where the Bears were always more important than the corrupt politicians, and scoring tickets to a Cubs versus White Sox game could make you have a lot of friends very quickly.
As a South Sider, my allegiance to the Sox will never go away, but as the city was abuzz with news of a new Cubs owner in recent months, my ears perked up. At first, we just heard about the $900 million bid (which was renegotiated to a meager $845 million) placed by the billionaire Ricketts family, but always-loyal Cubs fans needed to know more about these people, and little by little, we learned. Not only is the Ricketts family really, really rich, but they are also bringing the first openly gay team owner to Chicago: Laura Ricketts.
Laura’s brother, Tom Ricketts, met his wife in the bleachers of Wrigley Field in the ’90s, and led the clan on its pursuit of the Cubs when their previous owners, the Tribune Co. went bankrupt last year. Tom took control as team chairman this week, and Laura and her two other brothers, Pete and Todd Ricketts, are board members.
Aside from the deal itself, Laura’s place on the board is a historical one. She is the first openly gay team owner in Major League Baseball’s 140-year history.
Aside from her place on the Cubs board, Laura is also the board of the LGBT advocacy organization Lambda Legal. She lives in Chicago with her partner, but grew up in Omaha, Neb., where coming out to her conservative family wasn’t so easy.
"I came out to my family I would say early to mid 30′s,” Laura told MarketToMarketLLC.com. “I think for a long time I wasn’t really out to myself growing up in Omaha, Neb., to a Catholic conservative family. It took me a while to come out to myself and not long after that I came out to them. I think that it really couldn’t [have] been a better experience. They were all immediately supportive. … I have been really, really fortunate in that regard."
Though her family was supportive, she has her share of disagreements with her politico brother, Pete. Pete Ricketts ran and lost a Nebraska Senate race in 2006, where he ran on a socially conservative platform, including a staunch opposition to gay marriage. His campaign also received some serious cash from then-president George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“We don’t agree on all the issues of the day, but when it comes right down to it, we are family and love each other and that doesn’t — that never changes,” Laura told ABC Chicago.
As much as the Sox fan in me loves hanging our 2005 World Series win over the heads of Cubs fans — who haven’t seen a World Series win since 1908 — I wish the Cubs and Laura much success. As we all know, if you want to get something done right, it’s best to have a lesbian in charge.