MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins removed a statue of former owner Calvin Griffith at Target Field, citing racist remarks he made in 1978.
Griffith’s statue was one of several installed when the team opened the ballpark in 2010.
“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,” the Twins said in a statement Friday. “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.”
Griffith moved the Washington Senators to to Minnesota for the 1961 season, and the franchise was renamed the Twins.
During a speech to a Waseca Lions club in 1978, he said he decided to make the move “when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here,” the Minneapolis Tribune reported at the time.
“Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today,” the Twins said. “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. We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins, but we believe removal of this statue is an important and necessary step in our ongoing commitment to provide a Target Field experience where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome.”
Spokesman Dustin Morse said the removal was an internal decision, but the team had “certainly heard from outside fans and the community over the years” about Griffith’s remarks.
Griffith sold the Twins to banker Carl Pohlad in 1984.
Statues of figures with racist pasts or deemed to be racist have been torn down around the U.S. in recent weeks following George Floyd’s death in May after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes. A statute of Christopher Columbus was pulled down at the Capitol in St. Paul.
A statue of former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who was accused in 2017 of making sexually suggestive comments to women and a racial slur directed at a black team scout, was lifted from its pedestal outside the team’s stadium and taken away last week.