(670 The Score) The Chicago Cubs believe a fan who made a hand gesture associated with racism in the background of a black reporter's live on-air hit during their game Tuesday evening did so with a full understanding of the symbol and malicious intent, and the organization is leaning toward banning him from Wrigley Field permanently, president of business operations Crane Kenney said Wednesday morning on the "Bernstein & McKnight Show."
"We reached the conclusion that it's more likely than not that this person was using that hand signal as a racist way of interfering with everyone's enjoyment of the game," Kenney said. "That investigation has almost reached its conclusion. We'll have more to say about that in a little bit.
"We'll be taking action as a result."
UPDATE: Later Wednesday, the Cubs said they had banned the fan for life following their investigation. The team said it reached out with multiple phone calls to the fan in an attempt to gain more information, but he didn't respond. The Cubs have chosen not to publicly reveal the fan's name.
The Cubs were made aware of the incident by television viewers who then pointed it out to the team on social media accounts, Kenney said. A group of team officials then met after the conclusion of the Cubs' win against the Miami Marlins, and the organization sent out a press release in the early morning saying that it was investigating the incident and "offensive" gesture.
The incident occurred in before the start of the bottom of the third inning, according to video from the telecast. A fan behind NBC Sports Chicago reporter Doug Glanville made an upside-down "OK" sign, a symbol that white supremacists have appropriated. The sign has also long been associated with what many call the "circle game," but the Cubs aren't buying that line of reasoning, Kenney said.
"Whether this person is going to ultimately say he intended it, that he was playing the circle game or some other stunt, the judgment to use that in connection with a respected reporter who happens to be African-American doing his job -- and we love Doug and he does an amazing job for all of us -- that connection ... coincidence is not going to fly here," Kenney said.
The Cubs believe the burden of proof is on the fan to prove he wasn't using the gesture with racist intent, Kenney said.
"It's a place of inclusiveness," Kenney said of Wrigley Field. "It's a place where everyone is welcome.
"We're in a weird space these days. We're all living in a different era. For reasons I think we all know, the polarization of rhetoric and conversation -- not to get too geopolitical on everyone -- it's become a very tense world, it seems, with the rhetoric some people use. I think we're erring on the side of protecting the enjoyment of all fans whether they're viewers watching the broadcast or folks in the park. I think we'll probably be erring on the side of if this is just really, really poor judgment on this person's part, it's still probably going to lead to their permanent expulsion from the ballpark. Again, we don't do that lightly.
"In our view, the burden of proof would be on him. I'm trying to think of a way he could convince us this is not what we all think it is."