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More than sixty-five years ago, Jackie Robinson stood on a field in Cincinnati, Ohio getting booed by baseball fan bigots. At that point, the Hall of Famer and racial pioneer was a rookie and greatly in need of some support. That day, he got it from the not particularly confrontational Pee Wee Reese. A Kentucky native who had family members in the ballpark, Reese, a future Hall of Famer and the Brooklyn Dodgers captain, wandered over to Robinson and put his arm around him, as if to tell everyone in the stadium, “this man stands with me.” The moment, though some say it happened under slightly different circumstances, went on to define Robinson’s early years, and a statue in its honor was later erected in Brooklyn. It stands as a memento of the beloved (and now departed) Dodgers and a tribute to racial harmony, but sadly, someone tried to undermine that message last night by painting swastikas and racial slurs all over it.
According to ESPN, the monument stands in front of MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, and the graffiti was discovered this morning by employees arriving for work at the stadium in Coney Island. Local police were quickly informed of the situation, and not surprisingly, it’s being treated as a pretty serious matter. It will be investigated as a hate crime and get the extra attention and additional punishment options that come with such a designation.
You can take a look at the statue without hate speech painted on it below…
Employees of the Cyclones were able to get the graffiti off the top pretty quickly, but the base of the statue posed a little more of a problem. Luckily, the Parks Department is now on the case and is bringing in special materials to get all of the hatefulness removed. There’s no reason to think it won’t come out, but even if it doesn’t, what this statue stands for can never be undone. American has evolved so much in terms of race relations over the past 66 years. The thought of someone being booed by a stadium full of people simply because of his skin color is now laughable. Sure, there might be a few stragglers that are unable to cope with how much the world has changed and there might be some racial friction sometimes, but we’ve come so far and we’ll never turn back.
Earlier this year, the film 42 hit theaters. It takes a look back at Robinson’s first season with the Dodgers and features the very same moment immortalized in that statue. The film played very well with audiences, which shouldn’t surprise anyone considering how inspirational Robinson’s memory remains today, whether the occasional bigot tries to drown it in graffiti or not.