A remodeled fitness room at a middle school in Wisconsin will no longer be called the “Roger T. White Pride Fitness Room.” A local social media firestorm caused school officials to change the name — with great haste.
The epicenter of the kerfuffle is Meyer Middle School in River Falls. The plan had been to christen Meyer Middle School’s renovated fitness room the “Roger T. White Pride Fitness Room as presented by RCU,” reports the River Falls Journal, the local paper out of the town of about 15,000.
Chuck Eaton, the principal of a local elementary school and the chief fundraiser for the fitness room revamp, had previously told the paper that the longwinded name would probably be called the “White Pride Fitness Room” for short.
The lengthy original name was an unfortunate, coincidental blend which, apparently, no one had bothered to say out loud or consider in much of any way.
The family of Roger T. White contributed $15,000 to the sprucing-up campaign. White was a 1949 graduate of River Falls High School and a standout athlete. He later graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
“I didn’t know Roger White personally,” Eaton told the Journal, “but he was an outstanding athlete that embodies all the great principles of fitness and athletics. We couldn’t have had a better choice.”
The word “pride” in the fitness room’s name came from the successful $100,000 fundraising campaign, notes Minneapolis Fox affiliate KMSP. The idea was to “build pride” with a much-needed makeover.
And the “RCU” part is for Royal Credit Union. A branch manager for the River Falls branch of the regional financial institution had presented a $10,000 check to acquire naming rights.
After KMSP ran with the story this week, the social media backlash was immediate.
“White pride?” said a typical commenter, according to the Journal. “Which culturally insensitive committee let this slide? So much for building an inclusive community.”
Not all critics were negative. “Why is it people in this country feel the need to decide what others do and if they don’t agree you’re wrong or heck let’s keep the ball rolling ‘you’re a racist’!” fumed one. “Because we have different opinions?”
In any case, by Thursday, River Falls school district officials had decided it would be prudent to change the name to either the “Roger T. White Wildcat Fitness Room” or, perhaps, the “Roger T. White Fitness Room as Presented by RCU.”
“We can see and understand how the new name, ‘Roger T. White Pride Fitness Room’ could be viewed by some people as implying ‘white pride,'” school district superintendent Jamie Benson told the Journal. “Clearly that was never the intent of the community group, the White family, RCU, nor the school district.”
The school district also released an official statement.
“The River Falls School District has a demonstrated commitment to character education and takes seriously the responsibility to be inclusive and respectful of all people and groups of people,” the statement, obtained by KMSP, declared. “Any suggestion of racism, discrimination, or cultural insensitivity in the fitness room’s title was wholly inadvertent.”