Minnesota’s professional baseball team said it removed a statue of its former owner on Friday, citing remarks he made over 40 years ago.
Calvin Griffith’s statue was placed at Target Field when it opened in 2010 because he formerly owned the team and was responsible for moving the Twins to the state in 1961.
“While we acknowledge the prominent role Calvin Griffith played in our history, we cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978. His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value,” the team said in a statement announcing it removed the statue earlier Friday.
The decision to have a statue of Griffith “reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today,” the team added.
“We apologize for our failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it caused for many people—both inside the Twins organization and across Twins Territory,” it continued.
Griffith can’t be removed from the team’s history but removing the statue is a “necessary step” in making Target Field a place “where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome,” the team said.
Statues across the United States are being removed for alleged links to racism as Black Lives Matter protests continue weeks after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who perished in police custody in Minneapolis after resisting arrest following a call about forged money being used at a nearby store.
In a 1978 meeting of the Waseca Lions Club, Griffith reportedly told those assembled: “I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here.”
“Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hard-working, white people here,” he said.
The Twins were moved from Washington, D.C.
Griffith died in 1999.