(NEXSTAR) – A junior league hockey team in South Dakota apologized in a statement Monday after a promotion involving schoolteachers on their knees trying to scoop up dollar bills over the weekend was blasted on social media.
“Although our intent was to provide a positive and fun experience for teachers, we can see how it appears to be degrading and insulting towards the participating teachers and the teaching profession as a whole,” The Sioux Falls Stampede Hockey Club and CU Mortgage Direct said in a joint statement. “We deeply regret and apologize to all teachers for any embarrassment this may have caused.”
Ten teachers were chosen from the 31 applicants to participate in the cash grab. The hockey club said each teacher and school associated were highlighted before the event, which included a total of $5,000 cash. The minimum each teacher would receive was $500.
“As a teacher, I find this humiliating,” one person wrote on Twitter. “Scrambling against others on the ground for a few $1 bills? How about honoring teachers with genuine donations rather than turning us into silly entertainment for fans?”
Another Facebook commenter, who also said she is a teacher, called the promotion “dystopian,” adding, “Your organization and the CU Mortgage Direct group should be ashamed for putting on some demented version of Hungry Hippos. Ew.”
Others, however, said they were either not offended or saw the event as part of a larger problem.
“I don’t think anyone is blaming the team but it does speak to the state of our country and state when teachers feel like they have to fight each other for singles while crawling on the ground in order to buy classroom supplies,” one man wrote on Facebook. “The fact that more people signed up means this is a bigger issue than we saw. The team tried to do a nice thing but it just came off poorly.”
The Stampede and CU Mortgage Direct announced they will be giving away an additional $15,500 to local teachers in the wake of the promotion – an extra $500 to those who participated and another $500 to the additional applicants.
Loren Paul, head of the South Dakota Education Association teachers union, told KELO that he thought the event may have been well-intentioned, but “it just underscores the fact that educators don’t have the resources necessary to meet the needs of their students.”
Paul told the Associated Press the state “shouldn’t be forcing teachers to crawl around on an ice rink to get the money they need to fund their classrooms.”
One of the teachers in the Dash for Cash, Barry Langden, told KELO that he saw the event as a great way to raise money for his e-sports team.
South Dakota has one of the lowest average teacher salaries in the U.S., according to the National Education Association. Last week, Gov. Kristi Noem said during her budget address that she was proposing a 6% hike in pay for state workers, including in education.
Paul told KELO that the proposal is appreciated, but added that teacher salaries will still need to be negotiated and the salary boost won’t make up for years of neglect.
“The 6% sure is a nice help — but it doesn’t fix it,” Paul told KELO last week. “Our problem is the years where we don’t even meet inflation, and we’ve had several of those. The last couple years we’ve been above it, but several years before that we were below inflation and that really hurts us.”