I’ll be the first to admit that, if I were watching this video in real time, I would have missed it.
A Chicago Cubs fan flashing what the team determined was an ‘offensive hand gesture associated with racism’ on live tv. That fan has since been banned from Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play their home games.
Now some of you may still be confused.
To others who read this blog regularly — hi, dad — it may be vaguely familiar. Back in September, the Coast Guard suspended one of its employees for flashing the same symbol on live TV.
‘I still don’t get it, Eric. What’s wrong with flashing an ‘ok’ gesture?’
Maybe nothing. Maybe it’s an innocent ‘circle game.’ I remember playing that with my friends in grade school. (Ok, it was last week, sue me.)
I don’t know for sure what was in the fan’s head or heart when he gestured on live television. However, I do know this:
- It’s not the fan’s intent that matters; instead, it’s the impact on others that does.
- The fan flashed the symbol directly behind an African American tv reporter who was offended by the gesture.
- Several fans also complained.
- The team investigated, including checking social media.
- The team disciplined the fan.
So, whether you agree with the team’s ultimate response to ban the fan indefinitely from Cubs games, there are bigger takeaways here that you can carry into your workplace for when an employee complains about possible discriminatory behavior that initially leaves you scratching your head:
- take those complaints of harassment seriously;
- avoid early judgment;
- educate yourself;
- investigate thoroughly; and
- take action that is reasonably designed to end the complained-of behavior.