The Minnesota Twins announced on Friday that it would remove a statue of the baseball team’s former owner Calvin Griffith over his history of making racist comments.
“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 Major League Baseball team said in a statement.
“His disbarring words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value," it added.
The team apologized for its “failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it cased for many people.”
The statue of the former owner was removed from Target Field, where it has stood since the ballpark opened in 2010.
The Twins shared a statement on the removal of the statue of Calvin Griffith, the former team owner, from Target Field: "We cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978." pic.twitter.com/sASfl4lp9f— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) June 19, 2020
Griffith was orphaned at age 11 and was adopted by his uncle, Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith, according to The Minnesota Star Tribune. The MLB became integrated in 1947 when Jackie Robinson was added to the Brooklyn Dodgers, while the Senators became integrated in 1954 by adding Cuban player Carlos Paula.
Clark Griffith died in 1955, leaving the Senators franchise to Calvin Griffith as majority owner. Griffith was responsible for moving the team to Minnesota in 1961 . He was the last major league owner to integrate his team’s spring training camp in 1964 following pressure from politicians and civil rights activists, according to the Star Tribune.
In 1978, he went on a racist tirade at the Waseca Lions Club saying he wanted to move to Minnesota because there was a smaller African American population and a majority of “good, hardworking white people here.”
“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 ballgames, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable,” Griffith said. “We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”
The speech was widely condemned at the time and the Minneapolis Star wrote a front page editorial demanding Griffith sell the team, The Star Tribune reported.
The team was bought for $38 million to Carl Pohlad in 1984, whose son Jim Pohlad is the current principal owner.
The Pohlad family announced last week that it would donate $25 million from its foundation toward racial justice reform, the outlet reported.
The removal of Griffith’s statue occurred on Juneteenth, the annual June 19 holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S.
It also coincides with a national push to remove statues of Confederate generals and other figures amid the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice and police brutality.