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Vandals mark racial slurs, images on Jackie Robinson statue

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NEW YORK (CNN) — Vandals defaced a statue of Jackie Robinson outside the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball stadium, marking racial slurs and symbols on it, park and police officials said Wednesday.

A swastika, “anti-Semitic comments” and the N-word were written in black marker on the statue and its base sometime between the end of the Cyclones game Tuesday night and 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to a spokesman for the New York City Police Department.

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the matter as a possible bias incident. The Cyclones and police are reviewing security camera video, hoping it will lead them to a suspect or suspects, said Brooklyn Cyclones director of communications Billy Harner.

No arrests have been made.

The New York Daily News on its front page Thursday kicked off a hunt for the “lowlife who scrawled epithets” onto the statue.

In red, slanted letters it posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. In the background, a photo of the statue, which immortalizes a moment of racial progress in American history in the 1940s.

While Robinson endures racial slurs from the stands, white teammate Pee Wee Reese walks over and puts an arm around him, silencing the crowd.

At the base, the newly scrawled slurs appear, with parts blurred out by the Daily News.

The parks department has already managed to remove the majority of the graffiti, Harner said.

“Almost every Saturday morning I stop by the statue on my bike, and am deeply moved each time,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

“Defacing the Jackie Robinson statue is a dagger in the heart to everything America stands for, and I hope those who are responsible are caught, punished, and taught why what they did is so disgusting and offensive.”

The stadium is just steps away from Coney Island’s famous boardwalk. The team is the minor league club associated with Major League Baseball’s New York Mets franchise.

Jackie Robinson was the first African-American baseball player to play with a modern-era Major League Baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

His jersey number, 42, was retired in 1997, though it is still worn by New York Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera.

The film “42,” which was released in April, tells Robinson’s story of breaking the color barrier in the sport.

CNN’s Dave Alsup and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.