Manhattan city commissioner Wynn Butler said officials have declined to place a large purple mask on the Johnny Kaw statue at City Park despite having a mask ready.

He said the mask was meant to show solidarity with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the coronavirus outbreak.

“But because this thing has become so polarized, there’s a group that’s afraid to put it up there,” he said. It’s already been paid for. It’s made, paid for.”

Butler talked about this at the Manhattan City Commission meeting Tuesday during a discussion about face masks.

Manhattan resident Emily Oertling came up with the idea of the mask, said Karen Hibbard, director of the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Friends of Johnny Kaw, a local group that raise money for statute projects, paid her $40 for making the mask, Butler and Hibbard said. However, Oertling said in an email Wednesday evening that she hadn't been paid yet.

Butler said Wednesday morning that employees within the city’s parks and recreation department had concerns about putting up the mask.

Butler said he wasn’t sure if he wanted the mask on the statue because he was afraid people would vandalize it.