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'Total Disgrace': Jackie Robinson Statue Defaced In Brooklyn

Before the damage: The statue of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, outside the stadium where the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones play.
Before the damage: The statue of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, outside the stadium where the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones play.

Some stories about damaged works of art are more serious than others. What happened this week in Brooklyn, N.Y., for instance, seems much more disturbing than the recent accidental breaking of a statue's finger in Italy, which we wrote about Wednesday.

Someone scrawled the N-word, swastikas and the name "Hitler" on the base of a statue honoring baseball greats Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese outside Coney Island's MCU baseball park, where the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones play.

NY1.com says the New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating, because the words and symbols were so vile and they defaced a statue of the man who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier and the teammate (Reese) who helped bridge what had been a yawning racial gap. The news site adds that:

"There is a $1,500 reward being offered by City Councilman David Greenfield, State Senator Eric Adams and City Council candidate Mark Treyger for any information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible. Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com."

Outside the stadium, as the statue was being cleaned, people interviewed by New York's Daily News were in agreement about how outrageous the vandalism was:

"It's a total disgrace," says Beverly Gwathney of Virginia.

"It's a damn shame because this represents racial harmony," says Ron Schweiger, the Brooklyn Borough historian.

The words etched into the statue's base by its makers (not those who vandalized it) underscore Schweiger's thoughts:

-- "Robinson endured racial taunts, jeers and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man."

-- Reese "stood by his side, silencing the taunts of the crowd."

As The New York Times has reported:

"The statue captures a significant moment that is much remembered, although the precise details surrounding it are hazy. With Robinson receiving death threats and heckling and taunts from the crowd in a ballpark on the road, Pee Wee Reese walked over to him on the infield at a point either before or during a game and offered a quiet but significant gesture of friendship and comradeship."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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