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Twin Cities Twitter goes off over U's removal of Replacements photos; school says it's not what you think

A school staff member said he learned Coffman receives complaints every year about a photo depicting the 'Mats frontman, Paul Westerberg, smoking.
Credit: AP
Paul Westerberg, 29, lead singer for the Replacements, a Minneapolis band, performs as opening act for Tom Petty in Pennsylvania, Aug. 30, 1989. The four rock 'n roll bad boys, beloved by college radio stations, worshiped by a musical underground but known by few others, might just make the big time. Or maybe not. (AP Photo/John Zeedick)

MINNEAPOLIS — Photos of Minneapolis punk rock royalty The Replacements have been removed from the University of Minnesota's Coffman Memorial Union, but the university claims the reason is not what Twin Cities tweeters think.

Shane Nackerud, who said he has worked in the U's library system for more than 25 years, tweeted on Thursday that the photos had, indeed, been taken down from Coffman's elevator lobby. He said his colleague, Tim Johnson, was the first to notice the photos were missing, which Johnson posted about on Wednesday.

In a follow-up tweet, Nackerud said a person working Coffman's welcome desk told him they receive complaints every year about the photo depicting the 'Mats frontman, Paul Westerberg, smoking. He said the Coffman employee went on to say the photos might be displayed elsewhere in the building but they told him, "It won't be for a while."

Since the discovery, the news about the missing photos started making rounds online, with many people in the Twin Cities music community and beyond also taking to social media to express disappointment in the school's decision. 

Chicago-based author and music journalist Jessica Hopper was born and raised in Minneapolis. She weighed in on the situation via Twitter on Friday.

KARE 11 reached out to the school on Friday, and was told the reason behind the photos' removal was simply because they were "returned to their owner."

A statement from the U's Student Unions and Activities Office said:

"The historical photos of The Replacements, which were displayed near the elevators in Coffman Memorial Union for nearly a decade, have been respectfully deaccessioned and returned to their owner. The artwork is privately owned by a University employee with a passion for Minnesota's local music history.

"While there have been comments made about the photos over the years, the content of the photos was not a factor in the removal of the artwork. Accessibility is an important issue on campus, and Student Unions & Activities is in the process of updating the wayfinding signage in the Union’s spaces to make it easier for all to navigate. The space where the photos were displayed and others throughout the Union are being reevaluated as part of that larger project.

"There is a display near The Whole Music Club relating to The Replacements’ history at the University of Minnesota. We are considering ways to continue honoring this important piece of Gopher legacy in the future."

Chris Stellar, a freelance journalist based in the Twin Cities, also pointed out that Coffman and The Replacements bandmates go way back. He noted the band's first appearance there was in May of 1981, during a break from recording their first album, "Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash," in Dinkytown.

Back in April, KARE 11 spoke with original 'Mats bassist Tommy Stinson, who called his experience with the band back in the '80s and early '90s "magical."

“I've never witnessed anything like it again, or since. When I reflect on it, it was a super special time,” he said. “It's magical that I've been able to do all this stuff.”


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