Mascots are sports. Every team has one, and fans are proud to support them. However, there are some, like the Washington Redskins, or the previous logo image of Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians, that are deemed questionable and could be seen as offensive. Now, in a small town in North Dakota, a public high school mascot could lead to a big problem.
The Dickinson Public School Board met with the Little People of America (LPA), led by Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk, on Monday to discuss the negativity and controversial stereotypes associated with the team name Midgets, which has been used for nearly a century. Although no official vote was taken at the meeting, it was a time to reflect and for the LPA to express their views on the topic.
“The meeting went very well,” said Guy Fridley, the athletic director Dickinson High School. “I thought Samantha and the team from the Little People of America did a very respectable job. They came up and they presented well, and they presented on basically their side and how ... it offends who they are, what they’re about.”
Fridley said it’s important to be able to address and resolve such conflicts.
“Athletics brings a lot of emotions; everybody knows that athletics is an emotional thing,” he said. “Good emotions and bad emotions always show, and we always hope that we respect, obviously, the Little People of America and hear their concerns and respect that. We’d only want that in return if we had any issues with anything going on. We always feel collaborating and visiting and having an ear for people that have concerns is important.”
In 1922, as Fridley stated, the then-named Dickinson Coyotes were a smaller athletic unit, especially on the basketball court. Fridley mentioned either a radio announcer or a newspaper reporter continued to refer to the smaller athletes as “Midgets” due to their short frame. Slowly they became nicknamed “our Midgets,” which then transitioned into the Mighty Midgets and from there, the mascot was no longer the Dickinson Coyotes but was named the Dickinson Midgets, and it has continued for 97 years.
This is not the first time that the mascot name “Midgets” has been put to discussion in the city of Dickinson. In 1996, after hearing from the LPA, the board decided to change the name, however, they did so without public input. An opposition party led by Morton Krieg resulted in a recall of three board members, and the mascot name remained.
In 1997, the board decided to have another vote, this time with the public’s input. The Mighty Midgets remained. All was well until 2010, when then Dickinson School Board President Dean Rummel decided to bring up the issue again. Despite a student and former board member raising support for the change, the mascot remained. Nearly 10 years later, the LPA returned to Dickinson to attempt to make their voices heard.
Currently, it is being rumored that in national events, such as the cheerleading competitions, Dickinson High School is not allowed to use the name Midgets at its competitions. Fridley said that was news to him and other superintendents, but also said he cannot confirm that.
Fridley said if the board decides to vote on the matter, it would ultimately include the Dickinson community, as well as the athletes that represent the logo and the mascot name.
“We’d definitely want our community (opinion) and No. 1, I would say, we’d want our students to have an opportunity to voice what they want,” Fridley said. “They’re the ones that are representing the name across their jerseys, and I feel it would be for them to have an opportunity to make a decision on how they want to move forward and ... if there is a new name and for our students to decide what that name is going to be, our students should have a 100% (voice) into that.”
Currently there have been no discussions whether a vote would take place, or potential names if a change is made.
“Nothing has been talked about, or even uttered throughout the hallways or even honestly in sports, throughout the coaching meetings, we haven’t had any discussions on that particular topic,” he said.
Fridley also said coaches have not discussed the matter. However, future plans such as the community taking surveys about the topic could be put into effect sometime in the near future.