Mayor Martin J. Walsh says it was “inappropriate” for the Boston police to send a Black History Month tribute message on Twitter that honored a white man.
“Yesterday’s tweet from the Boston Police Department was completely inappropriate and a gross misrepresentation of how we are honoring Black History Month in Boston,” Walsh said Monday in a statement.
The Police Department, facing mounting criticism, apologized earlier in the day for the post, which celebrated former Boston Celtics coach and president Red Auerbach, who was white. “BPD realizes that an earlier tweet may have offended some and we apologize for that,” said a tweet from the department.
“I am personally committing to the people of Boston that we will always honor our black leaders, activists, and trailblazers with the respect they deserve, not just in February, but every day and every month of the year,” Walsh said.
He cited the accomplishments and contributions of the black community, noting the achievements of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, recently retired state Supreme Judicial Court chief justice Roderick Ireland, artists like New Edition and Michael Bivins, longtime activist and one-time mayoral candidate Mel King, and Superintendent Lisa Holmes, the first black woman to lead the Boston police academy training program.
Likewise, Police Commissioner William B. Evans released a statement Monday: “On behalf of the Boston Police Department, I offer my sincerest apologies for last night’s social media post on Black History Month. The tweet was insensitive and does not reflect the values of the Boston Police Department.”
A Police Department spokesman said Evans personally reached out to community leaders on Monday to express his apologies.
The Police Department tweet, which was deleted less than an hour after it went up Sunday night, was posted on the department’s official account “in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth.”
The tweet credited Auerbach with being the first NBA coach to draft a black player, field an all-black starting five, and hire the league’s first black coach.
The pushback to the tweet was swift, with many people saying the post was tone-deaf, inappropriate, and missed the point of Black History Month.
A coalition of civil rights organizations released a statement that said the tweet “amplifies the need for continued work to deepen our collective understanding of our shared history and the role that Black people have played in it especially in this City where we consistently stumble on issues of race.”
The group, which included the city branch of the NAACP, the Urban League, the Anti-Defamation League, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, and state Representative Russell Holmes, called for bias training for all managers within city government. “All of us, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender deserve this to be a top priority,” the group wrote.
Shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday, the department’s account reposted a Black History Month tweet that was originally posted on Feb. 3, honoring Bill Russell, the first African-American NBA coach.
Sean Smyth of the Globe staff contributed to this report.