LONDON (REUTERS) - Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family, who are among a number of bidders hoping to buy Premier League club Chelsea, declared that "diversity is central to our values" after a fan backlash over previous racist remarks.
The reaction was in response to leaked emails from 2019 in which American businessman Joe Ricketts described Muslims as his "enemy". Sources close to the deal have told Reuters Joe has nothing to do with the Chelsea offer, with his son Tom fronting it.
There has been a #notoRicketts social media campaign, with Chelsea's first black player, Paul Canoville, demanding the club turn down the offer from Ricketts' consortium. Chelsea are in consultation with US bank Raine Group to draw up a shortlist of viable bidders.
"Our family rejects any form of hate in the strongest possible terms," the Ricketts family told Reuters in a statement. "Racism and Islamophobia have no place whatsoever in our society.
"We have developed deep and abiding partnerships with the Muslim community in Chicago, as well as with all communities of colour.
"Respect for diversity and inclusion are central to our family's values. If we prevail in our bid for Chelsea, we commit to the club and to the fans that we will actively promote these values."
The family have formed a consortium with Citadel founder and British businessman Ken Griffin.
Tom Ricketts has already spoken with the Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands.
A delegation representing the Ricketts family are due to fly to London this week to meet representatives from fan groups, the Chelsea Pitch Owners and the Chelsea Supporters' Trust, over their concerns.
There is no guarantee the Ricketts family will make the shortlist to take Chelsea off Roman Abramovoch's hands, with Raine yet to decide. Sources close to the deal said a shortlist of three is being planned.
Chelsea were initially put up for sale by Abramovich following Russia's invasion of Ukraine before sanctions were imposed on the billionaire oligarch by the British government, effectively giving it control of the club.