Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two

Where Cal Griffith’s statue once stood…

Here is what Calvin Griffith said in the 1978 remarks that led the Minnesota Twins to remove his statue in from of the team’s stadium, Target Field.

Griffith was invited to speak to the Lions Club in Waseca, a small city in southern Minnesota. Taking questions from the audience after his planned speech, someone asked Griffith  why he brought the Twins to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., in 1961. Griffith lowered his voice, asked if there were any blacks around, and  looked around the room. Apparently confirming that his audience was all white,  Griffith said,

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ‘rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

It’s hard to get more racist than that, at least short of a Klan rally. I’ll poll this at the end of the post, but I believe that this is a case where the Ethics Incompleteness Principle applies, and the usually valid ethical objections to pulling down the statues of problematic, controversial or subsequently disgraced historical figures have to yield to other considerations, which are these:

  • These are the Minnesota Twins, jointly adopted by the Twin Cities, and George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Basic survival, but also basic decency, dictates that continuing to have someone honored by a statue in front of the team’s park when that individual uttered such an unequivocally anti-black sentiment would be irresponsible, and impossible to defend.
  • Griffith was a loathsome individual even without the racism. He was cheap; he insulted his players; and he was among the most reviled owners in the game. He is not an example of a historical figure honored for specific good deeds and accomplishments: bringing the team to the Land of Lakes was the sole justification for his honor, and in his disgusting comments, Griffith himself  admitted that the decision was based on racism.
  • In the same appearance. Griffith called Rod Carew, the Twins best player  at the time and a multiple batting championship winner who is now in the Hall of Fame, a “damned fool,” and explained.

“He only gets $170,000 and we all know damn well that he’s worth a lot more than that, but that’s what his agent asked for, so that’s what he gets. Last year, I thought I was generous and gave him an extra 100 grand, but this year I’m not making any money so he gets 170 — that’s it.”

After learning about his boss’s comments, Carew almost quit the team, but relented. He told a reporter, “I will not ever sign another contract with this organization. I don’t care how much money or how many options Calvin Griffith offers me. I definitely will not be back next year. I will not come back and play for a bigot. I’m not going to be another nigger on his plantation.”

(After learning of the Griffith  statue’s fate, Rod Carew released a statement saying, “In 1991, the first person I called after I was told I had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame was Calvin. I have long forgiven Cal for his insensitive comments and do not believe he was a racist. That was NOT my personal experience with Calvin Griffith — prior to or following that day in 1978.”)

  • Because of Griffith insistence, the Twins were the last Major League to integrate their Spring Training facilities. The Twins’ Orlando, Florida camp was not integrated until 1964, and only after pressure from politicians and civil rights groups.

Taking all of that together, I believe that the Twins are justified in taking down Griffith’s statue, and that it would have been unethical for the team not to.

I applied the Ethics Incompleteness Principle (discussed in detail in Part I) to statute-toppling once before. That was in 2017, and the issue was the decision by Memphis, Tennessee to remove a huge monument to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and an even larger heroic equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate cavalry general  and (allegedly) the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. I wrote,

I have to approve of the Memphis decision. While it should not serve as a general justification for historical airbrushing, the city’s action is fair and reasonable because of the unusual, indeed unique circumstances surrounding it:

1. Memphis was where Martin Luther King was assassinated by a white racist.

2. The city is fast approaching the 50th anniversary of that 1968 tragedy, and is planning events to honor the memory of the civil rights martyr.

3. The city is now 65% African American.

4. Davis and Forrest are not exactly Jefferson and Washington. Davis may have been a statesman with some accomplishments before the Civil War, but he wasn’t even a successful leader of the rebellion he chose to lead. Forrest was a brilliant military strategist, but leading the KKK should have obliterated any claim he had to a public honor: it’s like saying John Wilkes Booth deserves a statue because we was such a talented actor. The suspicion would linger that the real reason Booth was being immortalized was because of what he did in a theater that April night in 1865, just as it is widely believed that Forrest got his statue because of the KKK, not in spite of it.

Balancing all the factors operating in Memphis, I have to conclude that in this case, removing those Confederate statues is ethical. The immediate harm of allowing them to stay, embarrassing the city as it tries to honor Dr. King, far outweighs the usually valid arguments against historical air-brushing—provided, of course, that proponents of politically correct statue-toppling don’t try to make Memphis a precedent rather than the anomaly it is, and use the Memphis exception to go after Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the rest.

My reasons for approving the Twins’ decision are similar, and for once there’s a precedent. Many applications of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle have none: that’s why we call them exceptions.

Here’s your poll. For perspective, here is the previous poll on a related topic, the proposed removal of a statue in New Mexico of an especially brutal Conquistador:

 

Now today’s question:

 

____________________________

Sources: Star-Tribune 1, 2

37 thoughts on “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two

  1. Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest has recently been in statuary news from Nashville, where his bust is likely to be removed from its spot in the Tennessee state house. The replacement Tennessean being considered for the honor is the musician, successful businessperson and philanthropist Dolly Parton. That’s right, they’re likely to replace a bust with….

    (Do I really have to say it? By the way, I met Dolly in my radio days and she’d be the first person to make that joke, as well as laughing at it.)

  2. What a sports team does is vastly different than something that is deemed “history”. Everthing that happens is history. MLK cheated on Coretta but we don’t focus on that because it only impacted their relationship.

    The history that is important is that history from which we learn to replicate or avoid like the plague. The only value history has is its potential to teach. Understanding not just the “what “- which is how history is taught, you know worksheets that have the student identify who did what when – but also the context of “why” makes historical events teachable moments.

    Tell me why does everone believe the Emancipation Proclamation freed all the slaves. You have to believe that if you think Junteenth was the day the last slaves heard they were freed when the Union Calvary came to Texas. Tell that to all those slaves working the fields on Maryland eastern shore and elswhere in non- confederate aligned states.

    We all watched our members of Congress in their Kinte cloth robes kneeling on Juneteenth. We are told these cloths are worn by the kings of the Asante empire which ruled most of west Africa. What is left out of this history lesson was that way back in 1670 the Asante kings were getting rich selling gold and slaves captured from the interior. The females were “married” off to Asante males for breeding. I call that legalized rape. Some of the slaves were sacrificed during funeral ceremonies so they would accompany their master in the afterlife. Is that why Nancy and her colleagues donned that attire. Were they celebrating the Ghanian/Asante institution of selling black African people to Europeans for money?

    History is becoming the tool to promote a political narrative. It has lost any use for actual understanding. If Rod Carew has reconciled himself to forgive the man why is it so necessary to bring up Griffiths ugliness now if we are unwilling to look at all the sinful behavior that led to the creation of the transatlantic slave trade.

    Keep in mind that despite how we feel about bonding people to servitude today such practices were part of the economic system then. It was easy for citizens of states whose fortunes did not rely on agriculture that needed lots of labor to favor abolition. It cost them nothing. Today city dwellers can protest fossil fuels for the same moral reasons as abolitinists because they have lower opportunity costs when mass transportation is more readily available or population densities support more choices for work and leisure activities than sparsely populated areas.

    Imagine if Biden is elected and the Environmentalists decide that fossil fuels are to be abolished in favor of more expensive technology that another group is heavily invested in promoting. Tell me what lessons should we take from the civil war or war between the states or what some call the War of Northern Aggression.

    Being aligned with the confederacy is not by itself any more racist than northerners. Northern cities and towns were segregated well into the sixties and many poor whites in the south of 1860 had no slaves yet wealthy blacks did. Slavery was an economic argument not a moral or racial one.

  3. Erasing history, doesn’t change the facts of what happened and makes it more difficult to learn the lessons, good and bad of the people who came before.

  4. Not sure what to say or think on this other than: Rod Carew was obviously as elegant and polished a human being as he was a ballplayer.

    If I were a black guy of my age, maybe I’d have the ability to say, “particularly among our leaders and the type of people who end up being memorialized in statuary, ‘There’s good and bad in all of us.'”

    • I had not read that quote from Carew before researching this. He’s an amazing man.He’s also been desperately ill for at least a decade.

      He was also the best hitter I ever saw, before Wade Boggs.

      • Tony Gwynne was a really, really neat guy as well. A really good husband and father and a really good college baseball coach. Interesting how good hitters like Carew, Gwynne and Boggs and even Pete Rose are so different from sluggers. I guess Ted Williams was both. But hitters are almost surgical. Quick hands, I guess. Just flick the ball through whatever hole is available. And keep it low.

        • Carew, Boggs, Gwynn and Ichiro (Like Cobb and Hornsby) are the only hitters I ever saw who appeared to be able to aim at holes.It’s amazing to watch. Williams, who was tutored by Hornsby, could have done that, but didn’t: he aimed to hit the ball as square as be could ad hard as he could (Babe Ruth was the same.). His friendship with Ty Cobb ended over Cobb’s frustration at Williams refusing to hit to the opposite field to beat the shift, and his also his insistence that he wouldn’t swing at non-strikes even if they were easily hittable.

  5. Consider the optics.

    I’ve been to Target Field. Not my kinda ball park but I’m old school. Too much glitz and glam and noise and flash for my taste. Just play the game.

    But I get it. Love the Dayton family (the people who brought you Target). They are an incredibly philanthropic family here in the TC area. But imagine the optics of a gazillion dollar ball park, welcoming a predominantly white audience with a bust of Griffith who flat out admitted his reasons for moving the team to Minneapolis in the first place.

    Not the best welcome mat. It’s gotta go.

    • Why not get rid of almost all professional sport? Seriously. It’s nothing but the biggest plantation. The fan bases are virtually entirely white. The ownership is almost entirely white. And largely Jewish! Talk about bad optics. As Kyrie Irving has evidently opined, why don’t the black players start their own all or largely black leagues? They could even start their own networks.

      • Isn’t the whole concept of sports to demonstrate some form of physical domination over another and tbe fans are getting that feeling if dominance vicariously?

      • I recently watched a video on youtube that was a gathering of both liberal and conservative blacks dueling their ideas in front of a black audience. Fascinating exchange.

        At the end, it was suggested by one of the participants that blacks should leave “both their masters” and start their own party.

        I would love to see such a thing happen. If for no other reason than to sit back and eat popcorn while watching apoplexy take over the Democratic establishment. (As if it hasn’t already.)

  6. The more I think about this, the more it annoys me. Tell you what…you’ve got til 5 PM tomorrow to explicate this obnoxious comment, or it comes down, and you get banned. As veterans here can attest, I do not consider “Hahahaha!” an acceptable comment.

  7. The bottom line for me is that this is a private business removing a privately owned statue from it’s own property. Statues commemorating corporate self-interest are pretty far down on my list of concerns.

    “I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.” Marcus Porcius Cato

    • Professional sports teams are part private businesses and part public utilities and community resources. That’s why city’s (stupidly) pay for stadiums. Name another private business where a whole city has a celebration and the newspapers have banner headlines when the company has a banner year?

      It’s community history.

      • Having never been held in the thrall of a sports franchise, I find it hard to relate. Celebrations in the banner years and then the whole city goes into mourning when corporate self interest moves “their” franchise to another, more lucrative market. The “public” s deluded if they thank the franchise for their “new staduim” shake-downs, tax beaks, etc. and expect that “loyalty” to be returned. So, a quasi-public utility removed a quasi-public statue from their quasi-public venue. And the guy was a nasty character from the get-go. I see that removal protest being like a one-car funeral procession.

        • That shifts the goalposts, though. Whether its right or not to take down a statue or remove a street name is a separate issue entirely than who would protest it. You think any one will organize a protest over the removal of the TR statue in New York? I’d guess about 20% of Americans could tell you two salient facts about Teddy. Definitely cares about Cal’s statue. I sure don’t. I do care about the principle of not airbrushing history according to fads and freakouts.

          • I do care about the principle of not airbrushing history according to fads and freakouts.

            I wish to suggest that you may be making a mistake of perception here. Yes, one can say that this statuary toppling craze has to do with ‘airbrushing history’ and is a ‘fad’ but I propose that is an incomplete view. In fact it is not that but numerous other things. It is airbrushing, and a fad, to you. But they don’t see it like that. The reject your categorization.

            What we are seeing, and what is happening, has to do with a new, empowered demographic rising up to claim what is theirs. It is their *due* as Americans, it is what they were promised. And what that has to do with is a remaking of and a revisualization of America. One significant (and meaningful, and culturally potent) step in this process is in attacking the symbols of the old order.

            There is no reason in the world why all statuary, all symbols, cannot be ‘taken down’ and put into museums. They can do this when they are the controlling demographic, the demos that decides.

            Truth and reason and everything else, when people actually show what at bottom concerns them, and what motivates them, are rendered meaningless. Whatever ‘defensive truth’ you and any of us may try to send up . . . is immediately shot down by an act of will.

            The suppressed anger, the suppressed hatred, becomes its own logic. Imagine a ‘slave uprising’. They hack their masters to pieces. And this is *right* and *good*.

            I spend a good deal of time doing research on YouTube (an amazing resource). And I watched — my household watched — last night this very interesting short interview where a Black man in Washington tells his story. It helps to illustrate ‘visceral rage’.

  8. I’ve decided that the plaque option annoys me. A statue is a marker of history. A statue of Griffith should say why its there, and that’s all it should say. His birth and death dates, how long he owned the team, that he brought the team to the Twin Cities.

    You don’t have a statue to trash someone. If anyone is interested in learning more about the famous person,look him up. Read some books. It’s like the controversial plaque the Smithsonian hung on the Enola Gay until it was finally removed. It was editorializing based on an anti-war, anti-nuke committee’s opinions.

    • Incidentally more Japanese died in the firebombing of Tokyo and other large cities in Japan and still the Emperor wouldn’t authorize the surrender of Japan. MacArthur should have had him tried as a war criminal.

  9. “I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ‘rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

    I cannot decide what is at issue here: that a man said such a thing or that his statue was later removed because he did say such a thing. Is it a question of whether a sports team, which is half private enterprise but then half public-sponsored, can or should make the decision that it did make? Or, is it that this statuary has become the *victim* of a mob take-down and that this is part of a hysterical social movement and this should be resisted?

    Jack says: “It’s hard to get more racist than that, at least short of a Klan rally.”

    Statements like this always puzzle me because though they appear simple and direct they are, in fact, immeasurably complex. The United States and all the Europeans in it, except perhaps a very tiny elite group, were from the start totally ‘racist’ right down to the last man woman and child and this may have included the pets. It is only after a massive social engineering and behavior- and thought-modification program began that *attitudes* have begun to change. Except only superficially. The impositions that society and education make can only be superficial. I do not know whether this is *absolutely true* or not (I suspect it is) but race-difference and race-antagonism will always arise in situations where dissimilar people are forced to interact and share cultural space.

    But among *our own people* the most vociferous for turning against *nature* (if you accept this viewpoint) are those classic White Liberals. And if I were a person-of-color I would trust a White Liberal less than I’d trust a venomous snake. They’d sell their grandmother in a time of need for the gold in her teeth . . .

    So let’s put aside the bottomless lies of White Liberalism and examine the *real truth*. That truth is that people — all people — generally speaking always want to live among their own. They want to interact with people who look like them, have the same cultural habits and ethics, and so much else. And in all instances where some ethnic minority moves into a white neighborhood, the Whites move away.

    So the real issue here, the issue underlying all other considerations, is the fact that this attitude has been made to seem ethically wrong. How has this been achieved? Public relations, propaganda, forced school integration, changing the structure of TeeVee programs. But at the base the appeal, though couched in humanistic terms, is based in ‘blame & shame’. If you desire to live in a town, a neighborhood that is composed of people who look like you, you know that you cannot say this, though you may certainly feel it deeply and it may motivate most or all of your choices, and so you have to *divide your self from your self*. Hypocrisy is born there.

    The conversation that takes place here on this blog — this is important to see it and to say it — takes place within a system of ‘white liberal categories’. Among people who have ‘integrated’ these categories into their self deeply.

    Definitely these are Postwar constructs and also definitely they are part of what I call *impositions*. Public relations impositions, impositions of moral and ethical argument, legal impositions, and impositions of social programming through music film and TV. And the other is the impositions necessitated by a redefinition of what America is. The *reconstruction* of American one might call it. This is, as I say, the stuff of the Americanopolis: the American *product* that is offered, sold and imposed through all sorts of complex mechanisms to the entire world. It has social elements, civic elements, economic elements and connects to the global-systems that have been constructed. It is ideological. It is psychological. It is really very complex indeed.

    But what is most notable about it is that it is non-turn-against-able. If you turn against it you make your self a thoughtcriminal and one deserving of *cancellation*. Structures have been established to monitor you. ADL and of course the amazing SPLC. They network with state police authority and share information. You are being tracked!

    So the Rule goes like this: If you initiate a small peaceful demonstration to express any contrary value, there are established mechanisms, including state police and intelligence mechanisms, that will come down on you like 5 tons of brick.

    And when you tear apart whole cities, if you set dozens and hundreds of buildings on fire ‘in protest’, the entire System coddles you and protects you because what you are advocating for, what you are protecting, what you are ensuring continues forward, are these Postwar processes that have been decided are *best* and also *ethical*.

    Charles Blow says:

    Trump is a full-blown, unrepentant racist and white supremacist, and many people don his MAGA hats as a form of racist regalia.

    Trump has no taste or tolerance for a movement for black lives, only for the instruments to control them and quiet them. And he knows that many of his supporters share this view.

    That’s why he paints black protesters as criminals and their white allies as leftist radicals and even antifa.

    And he includes this definition of Antifa:

    Supporters generally seek to stop what they see as fascist, racist and far-right groups from having a platform to promote their views, arguing that public demonstration of those ideas leads to the targeting of marginalized people, including racial minorities, women and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

    “The argument is that militant anti-fascism is inherently self-defense because of the historically documented violence that fascists pose, especially to marginalized people,” said Mark Bray, a history lecturer at Rutgers University and the author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.”

    Now here, on this blog, you-plural suffer mightily! What agony this all is. How you must wring your hands! “It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this! I did everything a proper White Liberal was supposed to do!” You just can’t believe that what is happening is happening. It is unfair of me, in a way, to point to the ‘White Liberal Stresses’ and I do not do it out of cruelty.

    You thought — genuinely and sincerely believed — that the concessions you make/made would resolve the issue. But it didn’t. And I guess it can’t. But in order to *see* that will require a total reorganization of interior categories: the impositions I spoke of.

    Is Charles Blow *completely wrong* as you-plural insist? That is where it all gets very very difficult! You can’t work your way through it. I say he is not completely wrong. I also say that America’s ‘original demographic’, in the degree that it can and under all its ideological and attitude-constraints, cannot really state what it wants. But neither can you-plural. And when you do *make statements* they are always within those perfectly determined *moral* terms that have been imposed in you.

  10. Jack: Taking all of that together, I believe that the Twins are justified in taking down Griffith’s statue, and that it would have been unethical for the team not to.

    Apart from the whole statue-removing thing, here is my problem with this:

    Their statement said: “When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction wit h our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our ‘forever ballpark.’”

    Fair enough. Good start. Then:

    As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball.

    PERMANENT. That is a strong word. But, that is what they intended. Permanent Tribute.

    – including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961.

    Including the man who moved them to Minnesota. Seems fitting. But for him, they wouldn’t have moved to Minnesota. And, why did he move the franchise? Because of the same racist attitudes that they condemn.

    “we cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978.”

    I see. So, the permanent tribute was made while ignoring the racist comments you knew about.

    “His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value.”

    Good statement of values. The courage of your convictions came at a most convenient and opportune moment.

    “Our decision to memorialize Calvin Griffith with a statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today.”

    Not buying it. 1978? Maybe. But, had you heard of Jackie Robinson? The Negro Leagues? All pre-1978. But, 2010? NOT A CHANCE. You appropriately honored the person who was responsible for the very existence of the franchise, asshole that he might have been. OR…you should have just left him out 10 years ago.

    “We apologize for our failure to adequately recognize how the statue was viewed and the pain it caused for many people – both inside the Twins organization and across Twins Territory.”

    Where does that fit on the Apology Scale?

    “We cannot remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Minnesota Twins,”

    We’ll see about that….

    “but we believe removal of this [PERMANENT TRIBUTE] 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.”

    Fixed that for you, ya weenies!

    “PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE, THERE IS NO PLACE FOR RACISM, INEQUALITY AND INJUSTICE IN TWINS TERRITORY.”

    Past? Past? PAST?! You just admitted that there was a racism, inequality, and injustice in the Twins’ PAST. You say you can’t remove Calvin Griffith from the history of the Twins. There certainly WAS a place for it in the past. Like it or not, it is there. You admitted it was there. You removed a permanent tribute to the person representing the past you now want to deny.

    Part of me does not care about the Griffith statue. It is their franchise, their business, whatever. What bugs me is the apparent hypocrisy. This was an unforced error on their part. Had they given this statement in 2010, thanking Griffith for his legacy while explaining the absence of his statue, it would have shown integrity.

    Had they said, today, “we condemn some of his past actions and views as antithetical to the current values of the organization, the organization owes a debt to him that deserves commemoration,” it would have shown integrity.

    Their actions here don’t exhibit integrity. Weenie weasel words.

    And, the biggest irony of all is that the very statement to which they object relates to the basis for the move to Minnesota in the first place. If they really wanted to make amends for that move, they should undo Griffith’s franchise move, adopt a Negro League team name (Indianapolis ABCs, Montgomery Montgomery Grey Sox, Jacksonville Red Caps, Louisville Black Caps,Nashville Elite Giants, Monroe Monarchs, and the list goes on…they could even just change their name to the Minnesota (instead of Minneapolis) Keystones) and move the franchise if necessary (though a change to the Keystones would be interesting).

    -Jut

  11. NOTICE: The Commenter known as FREDDY HAFF is hereby banned.

    Yesterday, he posted in response to this post,

    “Hahahahaha!

    Wait, that’s…it?

    Oh my, I’m getting the vapors!

    Is there a contest going on for Most Sensitive Little Bitch of the Day?”

    I viewed the comment as insulting, non-substantive and inarticulate, and gave him until 5 PM today to explain it to my satisfaction. I will now add gratuitous Hahahahahas to the offenses risking banishment in the Comment Guidelines, since this is the second time I have banned a commenter for it.

    Accordingly, I am also spamming the offending Comment, as well as another that just came in, which was, to make this especially easy, a gratuitous racial slur.

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