Dickinson not alone in using 'Midget' as mascot
DICKINSON, N.D. Opinions about the "Mighty Midget" have come to the surface recently in Dickinson and it is not the only community facing a variety of ideas about whether the mascot should stay or go. Dean Rummel, Dickinson Public Schools Board p...
Opinions about the "Mighty Midget" have come to the surface recently in Dickinson and it is not the only community facing a variety of ideas about whether the mascot should stay or go.
Dean Rummel, Dickinson Public Schools Board president, has received about 26 phone calls since he brought the issue up at a Feb. 8 meeting.
"I would guess that -- keeping track of all of them, which I am doing -- there are certainly more calls wanting to keep it and leave it alone rather than change it," he said.
The word midget is recognized by Little People of America as highly offensive and obscene to the dwarfism community, said Gary Arnold, vice president of public relations for the non-profit Little People of America based in Tustin, Calif.
The organization recently endorsed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission regarding an episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice." Arnold says the way small people were referred to and treated was "dehumanizing" and "derogatory."
The word midget was used 12 times during the episode "with every attempt to humiliate people of short stature and those involved," according to the complaint.
"We've never asked for the word to be banned," Arnold said. "LPA passed a resolution in the summer where we officially recognized the word midget as objectionable and we pledged to do all we can to raise awareness."
Arnold said he knows about the Dickinson High School mascot, among other schools that use the midget mascot.
"I know that the use of the word as a mascot is not in any way intending to be a slur, but from our perspective, it's just that the word is so closely associated with the objectification of people of short stature," Arnold said. "It's just become this very de-humanizing word, which kind of impacts us in all of its uses now."
Other schools also use the name including Freeburg, Ill., Hurley, Wis., Estherville, Iowa, Butternut, Wis. and McLaughlin, S.D.
Richard Magnuson, Estherville Lincoln Central Community Schools superintendent, said there have been attempts to change the Midget mascot over the years, but no formal action has been taken.
The town population is about 4,000 and the history behind its mascot is similar to Dickinson's.
"Many years ago, the small school, Estherville, went to play a large school," Magnuson said. "The announcer -- and I don't know what the name of the mascot was at that time -- the announcer was saying 'Those Estherville players look like midgets.'
"We were small and fast and they won -- they beat the big guys. People liked that name, so they adopted the Midget."
DPS Board member Morton Krieg, an original proponent of the mascot, said at the Feb. 8 board meeting, the image was created in the 1940s and '50s by a radio announcer calling a basketball game, who dubbed the DHS basketball team "our midgets," as they were small compared to the opponent.
Magnuson said the issue of changing the mascot, not the name, was discussed earlier in the school year.
"Right now it looks like a wrestler," Magnuson said. "There were some concerns that maybe we should have something that looks a little different. Nobody had any ideas, but the board just decided to stay what we were."
Magnuson said he hasn't received calls from anyone local, but he got a call from someone in Ohio wanting to learn the history behind it.
Joni Weinert, district administrator for Butternut School District, said the school's mascot originates from a 1920's wrestler, dubbed Charles "Midget" Fischer.
"We have a big display out in our commons," she said. "It's just a historical thing. There really hasn't been any controversy."
Fischer was reported to be 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed about 158 pounds, according to Butternut School District information.
The Hurley School District is in the same conference as Butternut.
"You just should never have something that's going to degrade anybody," Magnuson said. "But, you have to pay attention to community norms and community culture and what they want."
Rummel said he brought up the issue to discuss the appropriateness of the mascot and no action is being taken.
"It's just to get an opportunity to have an open, transparent discussion at the board level," he said. "It's been 14 years (since it was brought up), and just to see if anything has changed in 14 years."
Rummel said there likely won't be a public forum held regarding the mascot unless someone requests one.
The Dickinson Press and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.