The Minnesota Twins announced on Friday they were removing a statue of the team’s founder. The statue of Calvin Griffith is coming down, according to ESPN, because of comments the former owner made after the Twins moved from Washington to Minnesota and changed their name from the Washington Senators. Griffith moved the franchise just before the 1961 season and remained the owner until 1984. He died at the age of 87 in 1999.
Hailed as the man who brought championships to the Twin Cities, his legacy was marred by comments he made in 1978 during a speaking engagement.
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we 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. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking white people here.”
Griffith was reportedly unaware there was a reporter in the room when he made the comments.
The Twins issued a statement explaining why they were removing the statue while also apologizing for waiting so long to take action.
“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 added the decision to honor Griffith demonstrated an ignorance of the systemic racism that existed in 1978, 2010, and now. The Twins also said they were sorry for the pain the history of their former owner caused when people viewed the statue.
The Calvin Griffith statue is one of several that sat outside the team’s home stadium, Target Field. It stood alongside likenesses of Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, and Tony Oliva. There are also statues of former Manager Tom Kelly and former team owners Carl and Eloise Pohlad.
Carew, who Griffith called “a damn fool” in that same speaking engagement, said he long ago buried the hatchet with the former owner. At the same time, Carew told ESPN he understood why others had a problem with the statue.
The Twins’ actions on Friday come amid similar movements around the country. Earlier this month, the Carolina Panthers took down the statue of their former owner Jerry Richardson. Toward the end of Richardson’s tenure as the team’s owner, he was accused of making racist and other offensive comments to employees.