A Forsyth County commissioner issued a cautionary statement and a man from Mississippi offered to buy the leftovers in the aftermath of a Fourth of July weekend in which people using the swimming pool at Tanglewood Park wound up receiving wristbands styled after the Confederate battle flag.
County officials said they disposed of the wristbands Monday morning after former county resident Sage Magness, who visited the county park’s pool Sunday, complained about the wristband to pool workers.
It was all a mistake, county officials said as the story unfolded Monday. Deputy County Manager Damon Sanders-Pratt said a staff member inadvertently ordered the wristbands, thinking they were patriotically themed for Independence Day.
And the company they came from later told Sanders-Pratt the bands had been discontinued and shouldn’t have even been sent out.
By then, the internet had blown up. Comments on the Winston-Salem Journal’s Facebook page numbered more than 230 by Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds more were posted on the Facebook pages of other local news media.
Sanders-Pratt found himself sending a statement to CNN and sitting down with local TV reporters to discuss the flap.
And Sanders-Pratt got a call from a man in Mississippi.
“A gentleman called wanting to purchase the wristbands,” he said, adding that the county won’t be reselling any that might be left around.
MedTech Wristbands, which sold the wristbands and 11 other styles of wristbands to Forsyth County, is giving it a $59 credit for the five boxes containing 2,500 of the “Stars and Bars Multicolored” wristbands.
The company told Sanders-Pratt that it no longer sold the item and that an employee sent them out by mistake.
Forsyth County Commissioner Tonya McDaniel issued a statement giving qualified support to the county staff for an incident that she said looks unintentional.
“Bad choices were made by all,” McDaniel said, adding that after talking with County Manager Dudley Watts she accepts that Sanders-Pratt “has admitted to the errors made by the organization and assured me there was no malicious intent.”
McDaniel said that the episode gives the county a chance to “revisit the mission, vision and values of our county,” and that the county has to be “mindful and sincere about complaints made by our constituents.”
“This is definitely concerning, and I am confident we will do better,” McDaniel said. “I don’t believe it to be intentional. However, if (there are) any findings that confirm differently, expect there to be consequences.”
Confederate symbolism, whether in the form of the battle flag or in other forms, such as statues of Confederate soldiers, has been the subject of controversy in the South for some time. Some people oppose them as symbols of slavery and racial discrimination; others see them as symbols of Southern heritage and history.
The city of Winston-Salem earlier this year removed a Confederate statue that had stood downtown for more than 100 years, with plans to move the memorial to a privately owned cemetery. It took the action after protests pro and con.
Also controversial has been the city’s move to possibly change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair, which some residents complained of as evoking an Old South of slaves on plantations. Large numbers of people have also appealed for the name to stay the same.
Sanders-Pratt said the county will likely use its credit with MedTech to buy more wristbands. The county needs different styles to carry out the functions the wristbands serve.
Primarily, the bands allow people to leave the pool after paying admission and to return later in the day.
For that, it helps to have different styles so the pool’s staff knows which band allows reentry on a particular day.
But Sanders-Pratt said the bands also come in handy for handing out to learning swimmers, weak swimmers, summer campers and the like.
“In addition, if you are not swimming they don’t give you a wristband,” Sanders-Pratt said. Those people can enter the pool area for free.
Sanders-Pratt said the county is owning its mistake:
“We messed up. We made a mistake and have to pay for that.”