The Minnesota Twins announced the removal of a statue honoring former team owner Calvin Griffith on Friday, the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the oldest national celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Griffith, who owned the team from 1955 to 1984 and was credited for the club's move from D.C. to Minnesota in 1961, made racist remarks during a speech to a Lions Club in Waseca in 1978. The statue of Griffith had stood outside Target Field in Minneapolis since 2010.
Here's the full statement from the Twins:
"When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction with our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our 'forever ballpark.' As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball – including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here 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.
"Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today. 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.
"Past, present or future, there is no place for racism, inequality and injustice in Twins Territory."
Griffith called longtime Twins infielder and Hall of Famer Rod Carew a "damn fool" for playing for as little as he pays him in the 1978 speech, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He also said that the Twins had decided to move to Minnesota "when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here."
"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota," Griffith said in his speech. "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. We came here because you've got good, hardworking, white people here."
Minneapolis, along with the rest of the United States, is grappling with the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who was killed when a police officer, who was caught on video, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd was a victim in the most recent incident of police brutality against a black person, and the death of Floyd has shaken the country to its core and sparked protests all across the United States.
Earlier this month, the Carolina Panthers took down the statue of founder and former owner Jerry Richardson and moved it to an undisclosed location. Richardson, the team's founder and former owner, sold the franchise in 2018 shortly after Sports Illustrated's report that Richardson had allegedly received complaints for sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at a black employee.