Teamwork needed in uniform dispute

The front page of Wednesday’s Enterprise carried some high-stakes news, such as the governor’s proposal for the state to cover SUNY college tuition costs for middle- and low-income New Yorkers, and a 12-year-old girl coming home from the hospital after breaking her neck in a snowmobile crash that killed her best friend.

But the news story that got people fired up was about baseball uniforms.

Let’s put this in perspective.

We agree with what seems to be a widespread consensus that Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox overreacted by rejecting an alumnus’ gift of $15,000 worth of baseball uniforms just because they added a little yellow trim to the standard red and white.

But as overreactions go, hers pales in comparison to the freakout that ensued on Facebook. Easy, folks. This is hardly a hanging matter.

In hindsight, since the uniforms had already been made, the most diplomatic thing probably would have been for the superintendent to accept them gratefully, and then perhaps to ask the athletic director and coaches to stick to school colors in the future. The good to be gained from a generous alumnus with sports apparel connections outweighs a little color variation.

Normally, yellow lining would be no big deal, but in Saranac Lake’s case, some people see it as a throwback to when the school sports nickname was the Redskins. As far as we can tell from looking at our photo archives, it was only the football team that used yellow, in order to look like the NFL’s Washington Redskins. The school board retired that offensive name in 2001, eventually replacing it with the Red Storm, the students’ choice. It was the right thing to do, but naturally, it was controversial.

Either option, keeping or changing the nickname, was bound to leave wounds, but they healed relatively quickly — and for that we credit the school staff at the time. While many alumni and community members complained about the decision for years afterward, school district employees accepted it and implemented it efficiently. They hadn’t all agreed with it, but they respected that it had made through a public process by the officials voters had chosen to make such decisions. For the students’ sake, staff made the transition smooth and quick. If they grumbled, we didn’t hear about it, and we doubt students did, either.

That sense of cooperation is needed again now. Having students see friction between school officials is a bigger issue than uniforms.

Hopefully this situation can be remedied if all parties involved set aside their pride and hurt feelings, and work together for the students. School board members started that process Wednesday by taking much of the blame on themselves, confessing they had blindly passed the buck to Mrs. Fox. Perhaps, too, the donor and the baseball coach will say they should have waited for 100-percent approval before sending the uniform designs off to the manufacturers.

But that’s all (to mix our sports metaphors) Monday-morning quarterbacking. What should be done about the baseball uniforms sitting in boxes?

We think they look pretty sharp. If the yellow really echoed the Redskins logo, we would be against it, but rather, it highlights the lightning bolts that symbolize the current “Storm” nickname. If it was up to us, we’d accept them with apologies for the mix-up.

The more important decision, however, is about moving forward in a spirit of teamwork.