As part of Black History Month, we take a look back at the City of Philadelphia's overdue apology to Jackie Robinson in 2016 for his treatment by Phillies fans, players and coaches early in his playing days.
Led by Philadelphia city council member Helen Gym, the city apologized to Robinson five years ago on Jackie Robinson Day (April 15) for the racism he faced while visiting Philadelphia in 1947 and while playing against the Phillies in Brooklyn that year.
The 2013 biopic 42 highlighted the hateful reception Robinson received in Philadelphia. He was refused service by a local hotel and taunted by then-Phillies manager Ben Chapman, who, along with players, hurled racial slurs at Robinson each time he came to bat.
According to that 2016 city council resolution, Robinson was told to “go back to the cotton fields.”
It was bad enough that Robinson once said that “for one wild and rage-crazed minute, I thought, ‘To hell with Mr. Rickey’s noble experiment” — Mr. Rickey being Branch Rickey, the Dodgers executive who signed Robinson, breaking MLB’s color barrier.
In 2020, Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated on August 28 rather than April 15 because of the season’s delay. August 28 is the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
"I feel like Jackie Robinson Day, this time, feels a little different than times before," McCutchen said last summer, referring to America’s long history of divisive racial issues which have again reached a boiling point in recent years.
"We're not only celebrating Jackie Robinson Day as the person he was, breaking the color barrier in '47, really being the start of the whole civil rights movement, because that was really the first time where there was some integration in this nation. But the things that he did outside the game, he was very active within the civil rights movement. He always stood for what he believed in.
"I feel like it's come full circle, and ultimately, I feel like that's what we're doing right now."