Noose-like knots lead to 3 firings at GPAC

Published: Sep. 4, 2007 at 1:28 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2007 at 2:12 AM CDT
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A hangman's knot is one way to tie a rope.  But it's also be a sensitive subject in the South.

"It reminds me of the days when African-Americans were routinely hung from a tree," says Memphis NAACP Executive Director Johnnie Turner.

She agrees with a decision to fire three employees who tied noose-like knots above the Germantown Performing Arts Center stage.

"One thing this city doesn't need is another incident where hatred is being portrayed," says Turner.

We're told the noose-like knots were used to cinch up excess rope.  A minority employee became offended, the city administrator was consulted, and a spokesperson confirms that Technical Director Matthew Strampe and two part-time workers were let go.

An executive at GPAC tells Action News 5 those involved probably meant no harm, but their firing was a way to set the tone for other employees.

"I don't think they meant anything by it," says Germantown resident Paige Wright.

Not everyone agrees with her.

"If they genuinely didn't mean any mal-intent, it may have been harsh, but who's to say they really intended to or not?" questions Jason Bell.

"You know, everybody reacts and over-reacts to everything, especially in Memphis," says Wright.  "It always tends to be racist," she adds.

"Even if they inadvertently did it, didn't think about it, I'll bet you they'll think about it from now on," says Johnnie Turner.

She says examples must sometimes be set.

Members of the GPAC Board with whom Action News 5 spoke were not even aware of the firings.  It's something that does not need their approval, but will surely come up for discussion during a regular meeting Tuesday. Meantime, we were unable to reach Matthew Strampe and the other employees who were fired.