Hurley Moves on from “Midgets” Mascot; Butternut Keeping Nickname

Butternut Midgets are named after wrestling legend, Charles "Midget" Fischer

HURLEY, Wis. – Hurley sports teams have been known as “midgets” for years, but on their school building, their athletic fields, and their uniforms, the controversial mascot name can’t be found.

Now, the school board has unanimously to officially change the mascot saying:

“In a school district that prides itself on inclusion and making all students and families feel a strong sense of belonging, the mascot sends the wrong message to any student or family who is different.”

A referendum asking voters if the name should be changed was scheduled for April, but the school board decided to take action now to avoid dividing the community over the decision.

Hurley parents and students tell us they were surprised by the school board vote but they understand why action was taken after years of controversy surrounding the “midgets” mascot, long considered a derogatory term for little people.

“Obviously I was a little sad but a decision did have to be made either way,” said Hurley freshman, Chandler Walowinski.

No one we spoke with could say exactly where Hurley’s mascot came from but it may have to do with the town’s mining history and the reputation miners had of being small.

The school district will select a new mascot later this year. They say it’s a process that will involve parents, students, and community members.

“I do actually have a couple suggestions,” said Walowinski. “I’ve got Hurley Hurricanes, Hurley Heat, Hurley Hornets.”

Elsewhere in the Indianhead Conference, Butternut Schools is keeping their “midgets” mascot because it keeps alive a unique story in local history.

“Charlie Fischer is a local Butternut legend,” explained Butternut Athletic Director Adam LaRose. “He grew up here. He was raised here. He was on our school board. But also he was a multiple time world champion wrestler.”

Fisher was given the nickname “midget” during his wrestling career because of his small stature. Butternut schools chose their mascot to honor his accomplishments.

“January 7th, 1929, Fischer won the middleweight title from Johnny Myers in Chicago. December 5th of the same year, 1929, Fischer won the light heavyweight title in Kansas City,” explained Ken Boness, author of a Charles “Midget” Fischer biography.

A trophy case in the school’s lobby is a shrine to Fischer and, unlike in Hurley, the name “midgets” is proudly displayed all over Butternut school.

“I would like to see it stay with Midget Fischer as being their mascot just because he was someone to look up to even though he was shorter than most of the students,” said Boness.

Though “midgets” mascot names have been condemned by organizations like the Little People of America, Butternut officials say the history of their nickname is different and should not be considered offensive.

“We don’t see it as a demeaning name in our context, we see it as a prideful name and we’re proud to call ourselves the midgets and try to live out and do our jobs in Butternut and live in a way that he would have wanted us to thrive and strive,” said LaRose.

Butternut is dedicated to remaining the “midgets” and keeping alive the hometown legend who is credited with inventing the pile driver.

“He was more than just a world champion wrestler,” said LaRose. “He was an amazing man beyond that and that’s something that we want our community and everyone around our community to constantly be reminded of so we can strive to live out our lives the way that he would have wanted us to.”

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