A North Carolina man insists he and his family are not bigots, despite what his online critics might say.
John Freeman, who co-owns the Outdoor Recreation Center of Wendell, received backlash this month over a set pool regulations many have called racist. The rules included a ban on baggy pants, dreadlocks, weaves, and hair extensions. ABC 11 News reports the facility charges a one-time $100 registration fee, and charges $6 for daily admission. Freeman—who runs the center with his wife, Teresa—claimed the rules have been posted in the center's office for the last six years; however, they didn't generate controversy until recently, when Teresa shared the guidelines on Facebook.
"It did look racist, a racist statement," Diana Powell, Executive Director of Justice Served NC, told ABC11. "[John] told me that his wife is—they're not racist. His wife just actually just made a mistake."
The post, which has since been deleted, was flooded with comments accusing the Freeman's of enforcing racist rules. Some vowed never to return to the rec center, while others called for a boycott.
John defended the controversial rules, stating he did not want people walking around "with their britches down" and claimed the ban on artificial hair was to ensure the pool pumps didn't get clogged. An instructor for Certified Pool Owners was skeptical of John's latter claim.
"In 50+ years operating commercial swimming clubs (owned/operated a large community pool management company in Northern Virginia) never have I heard of or experienced a pump or filter system damaged by hair," the instructor told ABC 11. "Strainers are installed to prevent hair and other material from getting into the pump—that is their purpose. There was a time (many decades ago), when swimmers with long hair were required to wear bathing caps because of the argument that hair lost in the pool would block up the filter system, so perhaps this thinking is still lingering. Experience proved it was not a concern."
The Outdoor Recreation Center of Wendell issued an apology in a since-deleted Facebook post. They acknowledged their ignorance and about the word "dread-lock" and said they should have used the term "artificial hair" instead.
In wake of the backlash, John said he was considering taking legal action against anyone who publicly accused him of being racist.
"If they call me racist, they can put it in writing and we will deal with it at the courthouse," he told the outlet.