Chicago aldermen hoping to score free tickets to the White Sox Opening Day game are out of luck.
The White Sox had offered aldermen two complimentary tickets for the April 3 opener against the Detroit Tigers and invitations to a reception that includes hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, according to a memo from the city’s Board of Ethics.
But the the Board of Ethics essentially told aldermen to RSVP with a hard no.
Ethics Board Chairman William Conlon said in the memo that tickets to the reception and Opening Day would be worth more than $50 — the maximum amount aldermen can accept for gifts — so he’s advising anyone who already took the tickets to “immediately return the tickets and decline the team’s offer.”
This is the second time in the last few months that the Board of Ethics has weighed in on the baseball perks that have often come with being a Chicago politician. Last fall, the board ruled aldermen were not allowed to buy coveted Cubs playoff tickets at face value - much to the dismay of many City Council members.
In a statement, a White Sox spokeswoman would not say who received and accepted the tickets. She said the White Sox have a “long-standing tradition of extending Opening Day invitations to a diverse group of VIPS and politicians. We leave it up to each individual to decide if they can or would like to accept our offer.”
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, a lifelong White Sox fan whose 11th Ward is home to Guaranteed Rate Field, said he doesn’t have a problem with the ethics board ruling. But he said he also understands why sports teams would offer freebies to council members.
“They’re trying to have it promote to say, ‘Hey, look, you know, isn’t this great. We’ve got all the aldermen here.’ And the aldermen will go back to their community and say, ‘I had a great experience,’” Thompson said.
Thompson said he goes to the White Sox’s Opening Day every year, and he has already paid for tickets for him and his wife. The freshman alderman said he’s spent most of his life in the private sector, so he’s accustomed to paying for himself.
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her at @laurenchooljian.