Illinois school refusing to change ‘Midgets’ nickname

July 21, 2015 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Despite objections from outside groups, an Illinois high school is refusing to drop its “Midgets” nickname, arguing the moniker its part of its history and tradition.

The Freeburg Community High School Midgets.
The Freeburg Community High School Midgets.

Representatives from the Little People of America visited Freeburg Community High School earlier this month, urging the school to change the nickname. The name was apparently adopted by the school nearly 100 years ago when a reporter used the term “midgets” to describe the undersized basketball team as it beat a much larger opponent.

The Little People of America delivered a petition asking the school to eliminate the nickname within two years and stop selling merchandise to people from outside the community, according to The Associated Press. Approximately 4,400 people signed the petition.

From The Associated Press:

Megan Sabourin, a St. Louis woman with dwarfism who grew up near Freeburg, told people at the meeting how offensive the name is to her.

“I’m hurt at the fact that they don’t see it as something negative. I’m hurt by the fact that we were in this community and we heard derogatory, disrespectful terms at the microphone,” Sabourin said.

Supporters of the nickname said they mean no harm and that the name is a source pride and tradition for the small town.

“We’re not here to make fun of small people,” said Mary McGraw, a resident who wore a t-shirt that read ‘Don’t Mess with the Midget’. “I would have never realized how important it was to so many people until just now when you see all these people. When someone messes with something like tradition, you decide something’s worth fighting for instead of letting it go.”

There are less than a dozen schools around the nation nicknamed “Midgets,” and some of the others are more receptive to change.

According to The Associated Press, the superintendent of the McLaughlin School District in South Dakota called the name “embarrassing.” The district has not received complaints, but he surmised at some point a conversation about the nickname would take place.

Here’s video from the Belleville News-Democrat taken the day members of the Little People of America visited Freeburg Community High School:

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