Statue of Jackie Robinson stolen from Kansas park
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Statue of Jackie Robinson stolen from Kansas park
A bronze statue of Jackie Robinson with a Brooklyn Dodgers cap and jersey. The police in Wichita, Kan., said the bronze statue was removed from McAdams Park by thieves who used a truck. (Wichita Police Department via The New York Times)

by Aimee Ortiz

NEW YORK, NY.- Authorities in Kansas are searching for the vandals who stole a life-size bronze statue commemorating Jackie Robinson, the first Black Major League Baseball player, after they cut it off at the ankles, leaving behind just the statue’s shoes and base.

Police in Wichita, Kansas, were notified of the theft about 12:50 p.m. Thursday after getting a call from League 42, the Little League nonprofit that installed the statue in McAdams Park, Andrew Ford, a police spokesperson, said Saturday.

He estimated that the statue weighed at least 100 pounds.

“I don’t know what the motivation is,” Ford said. “All considerations are being looked into.”

Ford said police had surveillance footage of the statue being cut down and being placed in the bed of a truck that was pulled up or parked “at least in a way where it can be, you know, discreetly hidden.”

He said that at least two people were believed to be involved. Ford said the theft occurred early Thursday morning. He declined to specify what was used to cut the statue because that was part of the investigation.

Robinson, who had been a young star with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues, broke the color barrier and became the first Black player to play in MLB when he stepped onto Ebbets Field during his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Robinson became a symbol of hope for racial equality in the country. After he retired from baseball, he continued working on civil rights issues and went on to break barriers in advertising, broadcasting and business.

Robinson “used his prestige as a star athlete to garner support for the civil rights movement,” according to the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. King said that Robinson “made my success possible,” according to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did.”

Bob Lutz, the executive director of League 42, which takes its name for the number Robinson wore, said it was a challenge to get the statue erected because the group had to raise money and needed approvals to use his name and likeness.

The statue, which has an estimated value of $75,000, was installed in April 2021, he said.

Lutz said he believed that the theft was an isolated incident and that he had no idea what could have been a motive for the theft.

“I’m hopeful that this was a purely ignorant decision made by ignorant people,” he said. “That they didn’t know any better.”

The Wichita police chief, Joe Sullivan, said during a news conference Friday that he was “frustrated by the actions of those individuals who had the audacity to take the statue,” noting that the theft occurred just before February, which is Black History Month.

“Our city wants the statue returned,” the chief said. “We also want the individuals who robbed our community of a treasure to be held accountable for their actions, and I assure you they will.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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