Boston police take down tweet honoring Red Auerbach for Black History Month

Mayor Marty Walsh called the post "completely inappropriate."

A bronze statue of legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach at Quincy Market.
A bronze statue of legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach at Quincy Market. –Barry Chin / The Boston Globe, File

Boston police apologized early Monday morning for a post from their Twitter account Sunday paying tribute to former Celtics coach and president Red Auerbach in honor of Black History Month.

Later Monday, Police Commissioner William Evans said in a statement that the tweet did not reflect the values of the department.

The since-deleted tweet commended the late Celtics legend for being the first NBA coach to draft a black player, fielding the league’s first all-black starting lineup, and hiring its first black coach, Bill Russell. However, it was quickly panned for lauding the accomplishments of a white man in honor of Black History Month, in addition to playing into the perception of Boston as a racist city.

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In a statement Monday morning, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the department’s tweet was “completely inappropriate and a gross misrepresentation of how we are honoring Black History Month in Boston.”

“We are celebrating the accomplishments and limitless contributions of the Black community to our city and the entire country, from Harriet Tubman to great leaders of today such as Chief Justice Ireland, artists like New Edition and Michael Bivins, powerful activists including Mel King and Superintendent Lisa Holmes, the first African-American woman to lead the Boston Police Academy training program,” Walsh said.

The mayor added that black leaders and activists should be honored with “the respect they deserve” not just in February, but every month of the year.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who is running for Congress, called the tweet “tone deaf and offensive, and a perfect example of what happens when there is a lack of diversity around decision making tables.”

“This is about much more than an offensive Black History Month tweet,” Pressley said. “This is about how we as a City and Commonwealth move beyond celebrating the simple act of tolerating diversity to truly achieving adequate representation.”

The police force has been criticized in the past for being disproportionately white compared to Boston’s population, though the department says it is trying to increase its diversity.

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In a series of tweets Sunday night, former Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson said he appreciated Auerbach’s contributions to race relations and the work he did to help provide opportunities to people of color. However, Jackson said the issue with the tweet was that “there are so many untold, unacknowledged black people in history that need to be acknowledged and understood.” Black History Month provides a chance to do just that, he said.

As of Monday morning, Boston police had sent out one other tweet this month in honor of Black History Month, a Feb. 3 post honoring Russell, another Celtics great. After deleting their Auerbach tweet, the department reposted the tribute to the 84-year-old Hall of Famer.

In previous years, the department has recognized current and former Boston police officers in honor of Black History Month. In each of those tributes, the officers were black.