Sports

Robinson statue cleats to be donated to museum

WICHITA, Kan. — The bronze cleats from a Jackie Robinson statue that was cut at the ankles and stolen last month will be donated to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, the league’s executive director told ESPN on Friday.

“We thought it was the absolute right thing to do,” said Bob Lutz, who founded and operates League 42, which was named after the baseball Hall of Famer and civil rights icon. “It’s looking like the cleats will be delivered by April 11, definitely before Jackie Robinson Day [April 15].”

Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said Friday that there are plans to have a ceremony when the cleats arrive at the museum. Kendrick said the cleats likely will be displayed alongside a historical marker from Robinson’s birthplace in Cairo, Georgia — a marker that was damaged by gunfire in 2021 and was donated to the museum.

“We have a story to tell,” Kendrick said.

The statue, which police said was valued at $75,000, was stolen from McAdams Park, where League 42 plays its games. Police said they don’t believe the crime to be racially motivated, based on what they know at this time. Instead, according to police, it’s believed that it was “motivated by the financial gain of scrapping common metal.”

Using surveillance video, police said there were at least three individuals present when the statue was cut, leaving the bronze replicas of Robinson’s cleats behind.

On Jan. 28, police recovered a vehicle that it believed to be connected to the case at an apartment complex in Wichita. Two days after that, fire crews found burned remnants of the statue while responding to a trash can fire at another park about 7 miles away.

On Feb. 13, police announced the arrest of Ricky Alderete, 45. He was charged with felony theft (value over $25,000), aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information. A Wichita police officer told ESPN that he believes there will be more arrests in the case.

Lutz, a former Wichita newspaper reporter, founded the league a decade ago in a grassroots effort to provide an outlet for kids and to increase local African American participation in the sport. It now has more than 600 players, uses four fields and provides an indoor workout facility with artificial turf, along with after-school tutoring and financial literacy programs.

The statue of Robinson was erected in the park in 2021.

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