On Jan. 26, a statue of MLB color-barrier breaking pioneer Jackie Robinson, which was erected outside of a Little League park in Wichita, Kansas, was reported missing, cut off at the ankles. An investigation soon followed, with authorities reporting on Tuesday, Jan. 30, that pieces of the dismantled statue were found burning in a trash can seven miles from the stadium. The incident has been appropriately described as "heartbreaking" and "disgraceful."
The details of this horrific event in Wichita, especially occurring so closely to Robinson's birthday (today, Jan. 31), are absolutely sickening, and serve as an enormous insult to Robinson's legacy within the game of baseball. Robinson made his first appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers almost 77 years ago as the first Black man to enter Major League Baseball, paving the way for every other player of color that has followed him. The game has been better off for it, and that may be a gross understatement.
The League 42 Foundation, a Little League non-profit based in Wichita dedicated to making baseball affordable to kids, has set up a GoFundMe campaign to rebuild the statue. It's well on its way to its goal of raising $175,000, but the Dodgers should step in and make up the difference, fund the rebuild entirely, or go to the next level to make their presence known and improve the affected area. They will forever be known as Jackie Robinson's team; they should treat that legacy with the gravest seriousness. Stepping in and funding the replacement of the statue would reaffirm their commitment to servicing that legacy and continuing to diversify the game.
Dodgers should help restore Jackie Robinson statue destroyed in Wichita
The Dodgers have their own statue of Robinson at Dodger Stadium, unveiled in 2017 and since moved outside of the main gates from the left field line. Along with the rest of the league, they continue to honor Robinson every year on April 15, the day he made his debut in 1947, by wearing No. 42. These observances are an essential reminder to everyone who loves baseball that Robinson irrevocably changed the game, not only because he ended segregation in baseball but because of the storied 11 seasons he gave the Dodgers.
The statue's placement in front of a Little League complex should not be overlooked — it says to young players, maybe even future major leaguers, that the game is open and welcoming to all kinds of people. A call to action to the Dodgers organization: pitch in to fix the statue in Wichita. Do what you can to protect and stand up for Robinson's legacy.
Update: Late Wednesday, Bob Lutz of the League 42 foundation confirmed that all 30 MLB clubs committed funding to the project. We look forward to learning how the Dodgers will continue to distinguish themselves in this essential work.