MONTPELIER, Vt. – A Vermont newspaper is being criticized by the Asian American Journalists Association for publishing a poster using a print type associated with Chinese calligraphy for the words "fry Rice" to urge a local school to beat its opponent — Rice Memorial High School — in a state championship game.
Association president Paul Cheung said in a letter to the publisher of the Caledonian Record in St. Johnsbury that the slogan by itself might be considered clever, but was offensive when written in that particular typeface.
"It became offensive when published in a typeface mimicking Chinese calligraphy," the letter said. "We'll assume that your use of that typeface was not meant to offend. But we'll also assume that if that is the case, the Caledonian Record will publicly acknowledge its lapses in taste and judgment."
Caledonian Record Publisher Todd Smith said he would address the issue in an editorial Saturday.
St. Johnsbury Academy's high school basketball team played Rice Memorial, of South Burlington, for the championship Thursday. Rice Memorial won 48-40 in overtime.
The newspaper ran the poster on the back page of Thursday front section. The top of the page read: "Go 'Toppers," referring to the school's Hilltoppers nickname. Across the bottom of the page were the words "fry Rice" in the style meant to resemble Chinese calligraphy.
St. Johnsbury Academy, a private school, serves local students and also has boarding students from across the world, including Asia. Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett said Friday the school had nothing to do with the poster, its design or its publication.
"We appreciate the Caledonian-Record's support of our teams, and we know for a fact that its intention was to support our boys in their championship run by using a clever play on the name of our opponent," Lovett said.
He said none of the school's Asian students were offended by the poster.
"Overall, our students often see such things as a way to celebrate their culture, not demean it. And in this case, we chose to follow our students' lead and look at the Caledonian's intent, not taking offense where none was intended," Lovett said.
Once Academy officials saw the posters at the game, they did their best to remove them from the cheering section, he said.