The Boston Police department has publicly apologised after it faced criticism for a social media post aimed at celebrating Black History Month. The tweet, posted on Sunday (11 February), paid tribute to a white coach — former Boston Celtics coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach.

As part of his numerous achievements, Auerbach was the first coach in NBA history to draft a black player, Chuck Cooper. In 1966, he hired the first African-American head coach of the league, Bill Russell.

The tweet, featuring a picture of the Auerbach statue at Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace, read: "In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth, we pay tribute to @celtics legend #RedAuerbach for being the 1st@NBA coach to draft a black player in 1950, field an All African-American starting five in 1964 and hire the league's 1st African-American head coach (Bill Russell) in 1966."

Backlash ensued almost instantly over the tone-deaf nature of the tweet.

Since its official recognition in 1976, Black History Month has been celebrated in the US with the purpose of honouring the neglected accomplishments of the African-American community. In light of this tradition, Twitter users criticised the police department's choice to not feature a black figure, calling it "tone-deaf" and "out of touch".

Soon after the backlash, the department proceeded to delete the tweet and release a public apology that read: "BPD realizes that an earlier tweet may have offended some and we apologize for that. Our intentions were never to offend."

The statement followed an #ICYMI tweet featuring Bill Russell, who was honoured by the department on 3 February.

As reported by CBS Boston, Democratic Boston Mayor Marty Walsh condemned the now-deleted tweet. He called it "completely inappropriate and a gross misrepresentation of how we are honoring Black History Month in Boston".

"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 in the statement on Monday.

Boston Celtics coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach
Boston Celtics coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach was honoured in a tweet by the Boston Police Department - File photo Brian Snyder/Getty Images