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River Pigs team name rejected

Jay Skiff operates a excavator owned by Jason Roberge as he uncovers long-buried dugouts at the softball field on the shore of Raquette Pond in Tupper Lake. (Provided photo — David “Haji” Maroun)

TUPPER LAKE — Division over the River Pigs, the name proposed for a professional baseball team here, has reached a tipping point, and team organizers announced Thursday night that the name will be changed.

They don’t know what the name will be, but due to public outcry over the “pigs” moniker, it will be something else.

Village board Trustee David “Haji” Maroun, who kick-started the effort to bring the team, posted on Facebook Thursday night, “There will be no Riverpigs!!! Stay tuned!!!”

Fire Chief Royce Cole, who is also on the River Pigs Baseball Committee, also posted, clarifying that they were referring to the name not the team as a whole.

“It’s a shame that a simple word has become ‘offensive’ to people!!” he wrote.

When someone asked how they will come up with a new name, Cole wrote, “(O)ur committee has a teleconference Saturday morning with the league president to see what our options are.”

The River Pigs name came from Empire League President Eddie Gonzalez, who researched Tupper Lake and its logging past in search of a name to represent that history. Many logging-related names, such as Lumberjacks or Timberjacks, are already copyrighted by other teams.

The river pigs of the logging industry had the dangerous and highly skilled job of balancing on felled trees floating down a river, traversing the uneven landscape with a long pole in hand, breaking up log jams. The name appears on a sign along the edge of Raquette Pond as part of the village and the Wild Center museum’s educational River Walk, though some have contended whether the term was ever used in the Adirondacks.

Numerous Tupper Lake residents, however, saw the term as being offensive and demeaning to people of their community.

River Pigs roasted

It started as grumblings on Facebook when the name and team were announced in late July. Some people did not want to be called pigs. Local resident Jim Lanthier brought the name issue up with the town board in early August, saying he represented other Tupper Lakers who were not able to be present.

An Enterprise web poll which started Monday and will end this coming Monday showed the majority of respondents saying the name should not be River Pigs as of Thursday night. Out of more than 700 votes — relatively high even for a full week’s poll — almost two-thirds were against the nickname, almost a third were for it, and the rest were undecided.

As the committee began work to convert the Municipal Park’s softball field into a pro baseball diamond, every social media post about the name brought plenty of discussion.

On Wednesday afternoon the opposing contingent had a letter-writing spree, sending the Enterprise seven separate emails decrying the River Pigs name.

Lanthier showed up at the village board meeting Wednesday, too, but it was Rita Quinn who spoke to the village board about the name. Earlier that day, a letter by Rosi Littlefield was published in the Tupper Lake Free Press, saying the “cringe-worthy ‘pig’ image” would be damaging to Tupper Lake, which has worked to improve its image over the years.

Village board members said Wednesday they would discuss the name next month, when Trustee Ron LaScala would be back in attendance, as they wanted a full board to make a decision. However, the next evening, the notice was put on Facebook that the committee will change the name.

“(This is) just a minor bump in the road, gotta put our thinking caps on and find something that’s not copyrighted,” Cole wrote on Facebook.