After six seasons of portraying "Billy Cub," a cuddly bear figure who strolls the sidewalks outside Wrigley Field, John Paul Weier says he's disappointed the Chicago Cubs chose to go their own way with a new mascot.
"I've been out here since 2007," he said. "I really enjoy being out here for the fans and I'm a big fan."
It started when Weier, knowing the Cubs were one of three Major League teams without a mascot, ordered an off-the-rack bear costume on line. He was barred admittance to the ballpark, by gate personnel who told him no one in costume was permitted inside. But working outside, he quickly learned that fans wanted to pose for pictures. And “Billy Cub”, was born. So popular, says Weier, that on some game days he recruits others to wear the costumes, and has as many as four working outside the Friendly Confines.
“It’s about taking pictures,” he says. “It’s about giving someone a lasting memory from a Cubs game.”
“The Billy Cub characters are not affiliated with the Chicago Cubs,” team spokesman Julian Green said in a statement. “We have received complaints from fans, mistakenly believing ‘Billy Cub’ to be associated with the Cubs.”
Citing allegations of trademark infringement, the League sent Weier a 100-plus page letter, ordering him to stop wearing the Billy Cub costume, and engaging in “unabated Mascot Activities.”
"They can threaten legal action, it’s once they finally take legal action that’s kind of a different story," Weier said. "I’m willing and prepared to go to court and try to defend myself over what I’ve built over the last seven years."
Weier says the Cubs organization offered to buy him out for $15,000, if he agreed to sign over all rights to the character and stop performing outside the ballpark. He refused.
“There's a pretty easy compromise," he said. "They just needed to hire me and make Billy Cub the official Cubs mascot."
Team officials said the decision for an official mascot came after “consistently hearing through survey feedback and fan interviews that the Cubs and Wrigley Field needed more family-friendly entertainment," a service Weier had hoped to provide.
"The reason I love doing it is because you can interact with people, you can have a great cubs moment with someone," he said. "You make a memory for a Cubs fan or even an away fan and as a big baseball fan and a big Cubs fan it’s just very cool to be able to interact with people and make those kinds of memories for people."
Weier says he has no intention of stopping and plans to be outside the ballpark as "Billy Cub" on opening day.
"We'll have a little mascot competition now," he said. "There hasn't been an official mascot yet, and now we've got an official mascot and an unofficial mascot. So, a little competition in Wrigleyville."