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This weekend, the Chicago Cubs will host the team's annual "Out at Wrigley" night. Described as the oldest "gay day" of any Major League Baseball team, it's envisioned as a safe space for LGBTQ+ people who may worry about being taunted or harassed for being visibly themselves at a typical sporting event. Fans can purchase special reserve seating for $61, while VIP tickets are priced at $144.
The annual tradition, which dates back to 2001, includes a contest to throw the first pitch and even sing the national anthem.
There is one aspect of the festivities, however, which may give pause to some of the team's LGBTQ+ fans: The Chicago Cubs are co-owned by Todd Ricketts, who is a key fundraiser in President Donald Trump's reelection bid.
In February, the Trump Victory Committee -- a partnership between the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Trump's 2020 campaign -- announced that Ricketts would be coming on to serve as its finance chairman. He had previously worked in a similar capacity at the RNC, where he had been spearheading the Republican Party's fundraising efforts since 2018.
Ricketts has been a key ally to Trump for years. Before the president took office in January 2017, he tapped the 49-year-old businessman to serve as the deputy secretary of commerce in his nascent administration.
However, Ricketts was unable to take the position due to financial conflicts. In 2017, CNN reported that he spent $1 million of his personal finances helping Trump win election in 2016. According to ABC News, he is also connected to the Future45 super PAC, which brought in an additional $45 million for the president.
In announcing that he would be joining the reelection campaign, Trump described Ricketts as a "friend," while campaign manager Brad Parscale credited him as playing "a critical part in advancing the America First agenda."
"I am honored to continue to support President Trump and the Republican Party through the Trump Victory Committee," Ricketts added in a statement at the time. "As we head toward 2020, I will work to ensure President Trump and his campaign have the resources they need to fight for the American people."
After being brought onto the president's reelection campaign, Ricketts co-hosted a three-day "summer retreat" for major donors to the Trump Victory Committee in June. According to the Chicago Tribune, the luxury soiree included a convening at the Four Seasons Hotel followed by a "reception... at the American Airlines Convention Center in the Cubs' office building, just next to the ballpark."
"Afterward, attendees who purchased tickets will attend a game in a specially reserved section," the publication reported.
Guests reportedly included RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, who co-hosted the event; Mick Mulvaney, who serves as the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Trump's administration; and Pete Ricketts. Pete Ricketts is Todd Ricketts' older brother, as well as the governor of Nebraska.
These revelations may be alarming to LGBTQ+ fans of the Cubs, given the president's sustained attacks on the community since taking office. In the past few weeks, the White House has filed a series of briefs at the Supreme Court arguing it should be legal to fire workers for being queer or trans. It has also attempted to strongarm the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) into reversing its position that LGBTQ+ employees are entitled to workplace protections based on their identities.
Since Trump took office in 2017, the watchdog group GLAAD estimates that his administration has been responsible for 124 laws, policies, and decisions that negatively impact LGBTQ+ people.
Ricketts' financial ties to the Republican Party go far deeper than the president, however. In addition to donating $50,000 of his personal finances to the Trump Victory Committee on June 28, he has been an extremely active donor to the GOP in recent years. According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Ricketts gave $10,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin in October 2016 and another $10,000 to the Illinois Republican Party five months earlier.
In the past, Ricketts has donated to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and disgraced former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock.
The Trump fundraiser also isn't the only member of his wealthy family known to give handouts to the president. His father, Joe, gave $1 million to Future45 in September 2016 after initially backing Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Republican primaries. His mother, Marlene, donated $140,000 to Future45 in October 2018, $360,000 to the Trump Victory Committee in June 2019, and then another $500,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump PAC, the same month.
Ricketts' brother, Pete, has not given money to Trump. He backed former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 and has donated to the Republican Party of Kentucky, Nebraska Republican Party, and Republican National Committee.
Neither of those three members of the Ricketts clan are on the board of the Cubs or formally involved in the organization.
Curiously, the one liberal outlier in the family is sister Laura Ricketts, a lesbian attorney who both sits on the board of the Chicago Cubs and serves on the national leadership council for the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal. Ricketts is a frequent donor to Democratic causes, donating to the 2016 campaigns of out candidates like Tammy Baldwin, Sharice Davis, Angie Craig, Gina Ortiz Jones, and Kyrsten Sinema.
The Cubs organization did not respond to a request for comment on this story, but a spokesperson for the Ricketts family previously acknowledged that there "are lots of people with various political views" among its ranks.
"[E]veryone is welcome to come cheer on the Cubs," Ricketts family representative Dennis Culloton told theTribune in June.
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