The Jackie Robinson statue that sits outside of MCU Park in Coney Island, New York was defaced with hateful racial slurs and swastikas, a manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones said Wednesday. The epithets were discovered around 8:30 a.m. on a statue of Robinson and teammate Pee Wee Reese standing together in a symbol of racial harmony.
The Jackie Robinson statue had vile words written along the base when a manager came across it, notifying park employees before thousands of children arrived for Camp Day. "Hile [sic] Hitler," "Die N-----,"and "F--- Jackie Robinson and all N------" were scribbled along the base of the statue in black paint.
"Immediately we went into action to try to clean it and remove the graffiti," Billy Harner, Director of Communications, told 1010 WINS news. Various public figures denounced the graffiti as incendiary hate speech and the antithesis of what the statue stood for— Pee Wee Reese embraced Robinson on the field in 1947 while the crowd was jeering at the first black player on the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"I have no idea why anyone would do that," Ralph Branca, one of Robinson's last living teammates, told The New York Daily News. "The statue signified a great moment in American history."
"I am saddened by this senseless act defacing the statue of my husband," Rachel Robinson, his 91-year-old widow, said via Twitter Thursday. "Bias crimes have no place in our society today."
Though employees were not immediately able to scrub the racist words off of the statue in time for the Brooklyn Cyclones 11 a.m. game, the last vestiges of the hate speech was erased by Thursday.
Police have been reviewing surveillance footage and "have some leads," but have not elaborated on them. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS, and The NY Daily News is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
"I hope you're punished for what you did because what [you] did put a dagger in the heart of what America is all about," Sen. Chuck Schumer said while at the site.