Police are now investigating the defacing of a Jackie Robinson statue outside MCU Park, home of the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones, as a hate crime, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Swastikas, racial slurs, and a “Heil Hitler” message were spray-painted on the statue, which memorializes the famous (if maybe untrue) moment when Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese embraced Robinson on the field during the 1947 season, when Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.
“This is being treated as a bias crime,” a New York City detective said Wednesday. “Hate Crimes will investigate the incident.”
Workers used plastic bags to cover up the slurs before the Cyclones’ game Wednesday evening, and investigators are checking video surveillance for clues about the vandalism. According to the New York Daily News, the words “F — — N — — — ,” as well as other racist and anti-Semitic messages were scrawled on the statue’s base.
The Daily News is offering a $10,000 reward for information about who vandalized the statue. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), who said he rides his bike by the Coney Island ballpark on a regular basis, also had pointed words for the offenders.
“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,” Schumer said. “That there are still people who don’t understand what Jackie Robinson stood for in his grace, and his strength and the beautiful person he was and to try and deface him, defame him by defacing this statue is just an act of . . . it’s beyond words to me.”