The Boston Police Department tweeted a tribute for Black History Month on Sunday — honoring a white man.
The department posted a photo of a statue of former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach that said, “In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth, we pay tribute to @celtics legend #RedAuerbach for being the 1st@NBA coach to draft a black player in 1950, field an All African-American starting five in 1964 and hire the league’s 1st African-American head coach (Bill Russell) in 1966.”
Auerbach, the legendary coach of the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1966, was the first NBA coach to draft a black player, Chuck Cooper. Later, as president of the team, he named Russell as the first black coach in the NBA.
The backlash to the police department’s tweet was immediate, with some Twitter users saying that the tweet was tone-deaf and that the department could have chosen a person of color — Bill Russell, for example — to honor instead.
Others on Twitter didn’t think the tweet was so bad.
One user wrote, “i might be weird but shouldn’t we honor all people that helped and were apart of equality?”
“Optics are bad but Red opened a lot of doors in an era where few would. That is worthy of recognition, though perhaps #BlackHistoryMonth a poor choice. But was Boston PD recognizing ONLY him? Seems doubtful,” another user wrote.
The department deleted the tweet about an hour later and issued an apology on its Twitter account.
The department later tweeted a photo of Russell, whom it had honored on Feb. 3 for Black History Month.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Bill Russell was the first black coach in any professional sports league. He was the first black coach in the NBA.
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