Sixty-six years after he broke the color barrier and began integration of major league baseball, Jackie Robinson is still facing bigotry.
A statue of the sports and civil rights legend, who spoke out strongly against anti-Semitism, was defaced outside MCU Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Along with racial slurs, the graffiti on both the bronze statue and concrete base included swastikas and the words “heil Hitler.”
The statute depicts Robinson, who died in 1972, with his white Brooklyn Dodgers teammate and friend, shortstop Harold “Pee Wee” Reese.
The vandalism was first discovered Wednesday morning by a park manager, The Daily News reported.
In a joint statement, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman Domenic Recchia, Jr., whose district includes Coney Island, said the crime “does not represent the views of Brooklyn or any community of our great city. Jackie Robinson made history by breaking down barriers; he inspired a nation in his pursuit of equality.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in his own statement, “This city doesn’t belong to whoever committed this act of hate. They will be caught. But Jackie Robinson’s legacy lives on in all of us. We’ll fight to preserve it in the face of bigotry and racism.”
Quinn and de Blasio are rivals in the Democrat primary for mayor.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a former Brooklyn congressman who still lives in the borough, said in a statement that he passes the statue many Saturday mornings during a weekly bike ride. “Defacing the Jackie Robinson statue is a dagger in the heart to everything America stands for, and I hope those who are responsible are caught, punished, and taught why what they did is so disgusting and offensive.”
Councilman David Greenfield of Brooklyn noted that the incident comes on the heels of a July 30 incident in Bay Ridge, in which three churches, a parochial school and a Jewish community center were vandalized with hate messages. Greenfield ssaid he, State Sen. Eric Adams and Mark Treyger, a City Council candidate in Brooklyn, would each conribute $500 to a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
“We must once again come together as a community and a city to send a clear message that this cowardly behavior will not be tolerated and that we will support the NYPD in bringing those responsible to justice,” said Greenfield in a statement
A Cyclones spokesman, Billy Harner, told The Jewish Week Wednesday afternoon there is no video surveillance facing the statue, but the Hate Crimes Task Force investigators are reviewing footage from other cameras for clues. “The statue wasn’t here when we built the ballpark,” said Harner, adding that the city’s Parks Department, which owns the stadium, is responsible for the security.
Cyclones employees were able to remove the graffiti from the statue but not the base. Harner said Parks employees would use more aggressive cleaning techniques to try to remove the remaining graffiti.
Information about the crime can be reported anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1 800-577-TIPS.