Mayor Marty Walsh said the Boston Police Department's now-deleted tweet honoring Red Auerbach is a "gross misrepresentation" of the city's Black History Month celebrations: https://t.co/DemRJCItly pic.twitter.com/MxXqS4maHn— Boston Magazine (@BostonMagazine) February 12, 2018
The Boston Police Department sent out a Black History Month tweet this morning that honored a white individual.
Arnold “Red” Auerbach was instrumental as the Boston Celtics head coach in creating a more diverse roster. As the Boston Globe pointed out, he was the first coach to draft a black player, as well as the first to assign an all-black starting lineup in a game. As team president years later, he was also the first to hire a black head coach, not only in the NBA but also in North American sports altogether.
But many were critical of the choice to honor Auerbach rather than the individuals who were part of those “firsts.” Indeed, the implication raised is that a white man was more instrumental in producing change than the individuals who actually played it out. Rather than honoring Auerbach, for example, the BPD could have honored the actual first black coach, Bill Russell.
.@bostonpolice I noticed you guys deleted this tweet honoring Red Auerbach instead of actually honoring Bill Russell. I’ll just leave your little mistake here, almost like a record of your transgressions. @universalhub #bospoli #Boston #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/Ayn49ZNMti— The Tokist (@thetokist) February 12, 2018
The BPD was quick to pull the tweet down and apologize for the offending move. But the tweet, which remained online for more than an hour, was already made — and screenshot — making it nearly impossible to forget.
BPD realizes that an earlier tweet may have offended some and we apologize for that. Our intentions were never to offend. It has been taken down.— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) February 12, 2018
The BPD decided to at least attempt to make things right, posting another tweet honoring Russell for his accomplishments.
#ICYMI: In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth we pay tribute to Bill Russell, one of the greatest @celtics of all time and the first African-American head coach in the history of the NBA when he was named @celtics coach on November 15, 1966. pic.twitter.com/gKX7zpcUQt— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) February 12, 2018
Russell himself was subjected to many insults and racial taunts during his time as head coach. Russell didn’t pull any punches for the city in which he played and coached, recognizing it as a “flea market of racism.”
“The city had corrupt, city hall-crony racists, brick-throwing, send-‘em-back-to-Africa racists, and in the university areas phony radical-chic racists,” he wrote in his memoir.
Black History Month is a time to honor black Americans for their accomplishments — not for white Americans to take credit for them. Auerbach was indeed a great person for the decisions he made, but Russell and the players Auerbach put in the game deserve more credit for their own accomplishments, and the BPD was wrong to have suggested otherwise in their initial tweet.
They made the right call in apologizing and in creating a new tweet honoring Russell. Hopefully their actions (and mistake) can shed more light on how we can honor this month in the years ahead, and avoid offensive social media posts in the future.