Derrek Lee Confirms that African American Cubs Players Received Racist Hate Mail

The Chicago Cubs fans as racist meme has been played, replayed, and played out. So I’m not trying to bait you into another (angry) discussion. Suffice it to say, it’s fair to conclude that there are bad apples everywhere, and, for whatever reason, things seem to be magnified in Chicago. But there is something new and interesting to add to the discourse.

When the issue has arisen in the past, typically after an African American player leaves the Cubs, there has always been a contingent of folks who weren’t quite sure what to make of the claims that players had received racial hate mail, or been subjected to racial taunts from the fans in the stands. It’s not that folks explicitly disbelieved guys like Milton Bradley, Jacque Jones, LaTroy Hawkins and Dusty Baker (I’m sure they received the mail/taunts they say they received), but because they all left on less than good terms, it would be understandable if their comments came with an added layer discontent. That’s not quite a euphemistic way of saying they exaggerated, by the way. I’m just saying it was hard to know exactly what happened.

That’s why it’s interesting to hear now from an African American player who was uniformly beloved in Chicago: Derrek Lee. Now with the Orioles, Lee recently confirmed that he was aware that some of his teammates were receiving racist hate mail while with the Cubs.

“I know the city and the passion they have for the team,” said Lee, first describing the pressure the fans put on Cubs players. “I thought it was too much on certain guys. I didn’t think it was right. But for the most part it was their passion. That’s why guys love playing in this city because you know you are going to play in front of great fans.”

Lee went on to explain that it was difficult watching specific teammates go through not only added pressure from the fans, but also something much more insidious.

“I never had any [hate mail],” Lee said of the claims that certain players received racist hate mail. “But I saw it. That wasn’t all right. If a guy is not playing well, go ahead and boo him but don’t make it personal. These were men with families and children who were hearing and seeing these things. No one wants to do badly in the field. And especially not to have racial insults or hate mail sent to you because of it. I never got any, and I am somewhat surprised I didn’t.”

The question then, if there are a number of racist Cubs fans out there with plenty of pens and stamps, why didn’t Lee receive any hate mail? He went through his share of slumps with the team, though, on the balance, he played well more often than he played poorly. I’m not sure we’ll every fully know and understand the answer.

One thing is for sure – Derrek Lee was, and remains, a class act, whose recollection is beyond impugning. If Lee says it happened, it happened.

And that sucks.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

18 responses to “Derrek Lee Confirms that African American Cubs Players Received Racist Hate Mail”

  1. Jeff

    Why didn’t Lee receive any hate mail?
    I think you answered this question yourself. He was always a team leader, respected by team mates and fans, he was very productive almost his whole time here and didn’t blame everyone else when something went wrong.

    I can’t explain it or justify it, but I have seen people who are absolutely not racist make racist comments out of anger just because other insults don’t work at getting under others’ skin. I think it is no small coincidence that every athlete/coach that has ever complained of racism in Chicago is someone who has had bad blood with the team or it’s fans based on poor performance or personality issues. I would say a good deal of these racist hate mails had a lot more to do with problems other than race, it’s just that when someone throws out the race card, everything else seems to take a back burner.

    1. joe

      As Long as you walk around like a muted brother they always love ya! thats what they do, they feel comfortable that way/safe. I have been in chicago 56 yrs beileve me when i say this!! Ozzie has won the only world series in the last 88 yrs and read how they treat him!!

  2. Michigan Goat

    It is sad to know how little we have come, as a passionate fan it sickens me that people are so ignorant. If you see or hear this kind of behavior please show intelligence and call that out.

    Also saying racist things out of anger is RACIST, we should not be making excuses

    1. Cardfan

      It is sad how little we have come. We should all come more.

      That being said, why do you dwell on this crap? As the man once said – “you can’t fix stupid”…and guess what – we are all a little stupid. Do yourself a favor and just refuse to jump on the self-righteous BS bandwagon and the holier-than-thou criticism of others that lump people into buckets based on their ethnicity, economic circumstances, follicular status, vocabulary, clothing selection, personal choices, or even loyalty to a particular sports franchise. We are all flawed, we make snap judgements about people based on the most ridiculous crap. Is it right – hell no. Will it ever go away – hell no. Should we just accept it – hell no. Do me a favor, though, and don’t pontificate and act so surprised that we woke up today to an imperfect world.

  3. roughriider

    In my life I have been to 35 countries. I have received racist insults 3 times. In the Virgin Islands, Saudi Arabia and Chicago. I’m white by the way. Blonde and Blue eyed. I consider the source not the city or country. It’s reprehensible that the players or anyone receives racist insults. But, guilt shouldn’t be placed at the foot of all Cub Fans or even Chicago. There is good and bad everywhere.

    People that shout or write insults intended to hurt other people are showing their true spirit, or lack of intelligence.

  4. Brian

    I hope that the fans making these racist comments see this… or are at least aware of the fact people know about this. I’ve seen numerous occasions (typically during the Cubs-Sox series) where fans are rough to each other. I’ve heard numerous racist comments exchanged. Now I know that this topic was about racist comments towards the players, but in the end we are all people and it is just as disrespectful to fans as it is to players. It seems to me, regardless of which stadium I am watching the game at, that the fans stop being fans at the game and turn into humanitarians. The people stand up for the person or persons that are being racially taunted by another person.

    It is an important reminder that baseball is just a game. It is a huge part of entertainment for Americans and for many, sad and optimistic Chicagoans, it is a way of life. But in the end players and fans are people and for the many times I have seen it, the right thing is done. There is a scar on the face of the U.S from the self-inflicted wound of discrimination and it is important that our society makes sure that scar does not open up again.

    Chicago is a great city and the U.S is a great country… and Derrek Lee is still one of my favorite players.

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  7. Mike

    Being a minority myself, it upsets me as a Cubs fan that people would even say or do this type of thing. But it seems like when someone wants to put in a taunt, one of the first things they do is add whatever racial derogatory word to add to the insult. We all want our team to win, and when someone is not doing well or playing (I even must say i shouted a few swears at the TV when Castro made those back to back errors) but it still doesn’t exuse it. People don’t understand that even some of the funny shirts (sn……I saw a guy in Milwaukee with the Horry Cow shirt w a Fukudome bandana), the Ozzie mows my lawn shirt and things like that……it further fuels all of that. We all, and I mean all of us, have some prejudice in us. You shouldn’t waste your time and take it out on someone playing a sport to entertain us all.

  8. Steve

    I’m not very PC, to say the least. But I still say that people need thicker skin. This is no big deal. White guys get made fun of in the NBA…just for being white. People laugh it off. I am not making excuses, either. As someone said: we ALL have a little racism in us. Sometimes, it comes out. We are flawed. The timing of Lee’s comments is what intrigues me. Please, let this die. Call me insensitive, or even racist, but, that Ozzie Mows My Lawn shirt is funny shit. Lighten up people.

    1. Mike

      The ozzie part was just to add to it. Fukudome’s vs Ozzie’s shirt, are two different things…… Everyone is made fun of to a certain extent…but fun and just flat out sending hateful e-mails and letters are another.

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