The Minnesota Twins have 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 its new ballpark in 2010.
The team said in a statement Friday it “cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca … (that) 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 team to Minnesota in 1961 from Washington D.C. In 1978, in a speech to a Waseca Lions club, he said he decided to do so “when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here,” the Minneapolis Tribune reported at the time.
The Twins say they wanted to pay permanent tribute to important figures in the team’s past, but the decision to honor Griffith “reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism.”
Spokesman Dustin Morse says 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.
CBS station WCCO reports that Twins legend Rod Carew, who is black and played under Griffith at the time, said in a statement Friday that while he was angered by Griffith’s hurtful comments at the time, Griffith’s views on race changed over the years.
“In my view, Calvin made a horrible mistake while giving that speech in 1978. I have no idea what happened that day, but who among us has not made a mistake?” Carew said.
He added: “I have long forgiven Cal for his insensitive comments and do not believe he was a racist. That was not my personal experience with Calvin Griffith – prior to or following that day in 1978.”
The removal of the statue comes after the Pohlad family, which currently owns the team, pledged to spend $25 million to push for racial justice in the Twin Cities in the wake of George Floyd’s death.