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Menino plans strategy on a Russell statue

HONORING A LEGEND President Obama said last month that he hoped Boston would build a statue to Bill Russell. HONORING A LEGEND
President Obama said last month that he hoped Boston would build a statue to Bill Russell.
By Martin Finucane and Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / March 2, 2011

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Mayor Thomas M. Menino met yesterday with local sports figures and business leaders to discuss building a statue to honor Celtics great Bill Russell.

The meeting at the Parkman House was held to identify the next steps needed to make the statue a reality, said Menino’s spokeswoman, Dot Joyce. The mayor’s office declined to say who attended the breakfast, but Joyce said the group plans to sit down again next week.

“The mayor has long believed Bill Russell deserves recognition in our city not only for his talents on the court, but more importantly the role he played in developing a better, more welcoming Boston for all of our residents,’’ Joyce said.

Meanwhile, two city councilors have joined the ranks of supporters. Councilors John R. Connolly and Ayanna Pressley have filed a nonbinding resolution calling for the council to join “in the chorus of support for the raising of a statue commemorating Bill Russell and all of his accomplishments.’’

The resolution, which will be introduced today, also urges the council to call for “philanthropic organizations, local businesses, and civic leaders to support this endeavor.’’

President Obama, speaking last month at a White House ceremony in which Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said he hoped Boston would build a statue to Russell, who was the backbone of the Celtics in the 1950s and 1960s.

For years, Menino, the Celtics owners, Russell’s former teammates, and many fans have supported the idea, but it has never made it past the discussion stages. Menino said previously that Obama’s recent comments would kick-start efforts to raise private donations.

While he led a team that brought the city 11 NBA championship banners, Russell had a fraught relationship with Boston. He once called it a “flea market of racism.’’ But Menino said Russell told him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that the city had become “much more tolerant and diverse.’’

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