Memorials honoring George Preston Marshall, the last NFL team owner to resist signing black players, and Calvin Griffith, a baseball club owner who made racist remarks, were removed from US stadiums Friday.
The move came on "Juneteenth" -- a day recalling the day in 1865 when US soldiers told the last slaves in Texas they had been freed two years earlier -- and in the wake of global protests over racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's killing in police custody.
A large memorial featuring the image of former Washington Redskins owner Marshall was removed from the front of RFK Stadium in Washington while the statue of Griffith, who moved Major League Baseball's Washington Senators to become the Minnesota Twins in 1960, was removed from the front of Target Field in Minneapolis.
Marshall, who owned the Redskins from their formation in 1932 in Boston through their move to Washington in 1937 until his death in 1969, was forced to integrate the Redskins.
US lawmakers threatened to revoke Marshall's 30-year stadium lease unless he integrated his roster, which he did in 1962 with running back and receiver Bobby Mitchell.
"This symbol of a person who didn't believe all men and women were created equal and who actually worked against integration is counter to all that we as people, a city, and nation represent," said Events DC chairman Max Brown and president Greg O'Dell in a statement after the group removed the memorial.
"Removing this statue is a small and an overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice. Allowing the memorial to remain... is a disturbing symbol to many in the city we serve."
RFK Stadium was the former home of the Redskins, MLB's Washington Senators and Nationals and Major League Soccer's DC United.
The Twins announced the removal of a statue of Griffith, who died in 1999. It was installed in 2010 when the ballpark opened.
In 1978, Griffith made bigoted and racist remarks to a Lions Club gathering in Waseca, Minnesota.
"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota," Griffith said. "It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don't go to ballgames, but they'll fill up a wrestling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. We came here because you've got good, hardworking white people here."
'IGNORANCE ON OUR PART'
The Twins said the decision to erect a statue of Griffith "reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today. We apologize for our failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it caused."
"We cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made," a club statement said. "His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the black community.
"We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins, but we believe removal of this statue is an important and necessary step in our ongoing commitment to provide a Target Field experience where every fan and employee feels safe and welcome.
"Past, present or future, there is no place for racism, inequality and injustice in Twins Territory."