Residents of Wendell, North Carolina, a small town located outside of Raleigh, are outraged by a ban initiated by the owner of a private outdoor recreation center. The Outdoor Recreation Center of Wendell banned dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, and baggy jeans from the property. The ban created a firestorm on social media, which called out the owners, John and Teresa Freeman, for being racist.
Wendell pool owner says he’s considering legal action against social media users blasting the pool for ‘racist’ rule banning baggy pants, dreadlocks/weaves/extensions. @ABC11_WTVD #ABC11 pic.twitter.com/8lKVyIP2jN
— Andrea Blanford (@AndreaABC11) June 17, 2019
John and Teresa Freeman maintained that the policy was not racist and wasn’t a problem until Teresa shared the rules on the pool’s Facebook page last weekend. Some people supported the couple, saying they should be able to run their business as they pleased. Others saw the ban as a deterrent to keep potential Black patrons from buying a membership for access to the pool.
Raleigh discrimination attorney Meredith Ballard said: “Most people have figured out by now they can’t put up a sign that says a specific race is not welcome.”
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It is illegal for businesses, private and public, to discriminate against anyone based on race, sex, national origin, or disability. Ballard explained that research is necessary to determine if the Outdoor Recreation Center’s pool ban solely affected Black patrons. It has not been confirmed if John and Teresa Freeman have denied entrance to patrons of a specific race based on the rules.
John Freeman insisted that the ban on “artificial hair” is to prevent the pump and drain system from becoming damaged. He claimed that damage to the pump has caused the pool to be out of service for up to three days.
Freeman used the Certified Pool Owners (CPO) as validation for his reasoning. The CPO said the excuse was a stretch pointing out that filters are designed to avoid hair and other items from damaging the pool’s pump.
Diana Powell, Executive Director of Justice Served, said: “It did look racist, a racist statement.”
Freeman reiterated that he has 381 families of different ethnic backgrounds as members of the Outdoor Recreation Center, and he tries to “accommodate any and everybody.”
According to the U.S. census, Wendell, N.C., has an estimated population of 7,809. The town is about 68 percent white, about 19 percent Black and about 13 percent Hispanic.