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Organizers of the South Dakota teacher 'Dash for Cash' are apologizing and paying up

A South Dakota hockey team and mortgage lender are apologizing for a widely panned event in which schoolteachers scrambled to grab dollar bills off the ice during a game's intermission.

The Sioux Falls Stampede, a junior league team, had billed Saturday's event as its inaugural "Dash for Cash." It involved dumping $5,000 in $1 bills on a carpet at center ice, then inviting 10 teachers from local schools to scoop up the bills as fans cheered.

Videos of the educators — wearing hockey helmets and stuffing cash into their shirts and pockets — went viral over the weekend, after the videos were posted to Twitter by Argus Leader reporter Annie Todd.

The teachers' hauls ranged from $378 to $616, according to the Argus Leader.

Organizers said all the money the teachers could grab would be used for their own classrooms and school programs, and they had framed it as a way to help educators amid the stressors of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, as NPR's Bill Chappell reported, it drew widespread condemnation from critics and shone a national spotlight on South Dakota's low teacher pay.

The Stampede and CU Mortgage Direct, which donated the cash for the contest, are now offering teachers an apology and an additional $500 each.

"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," organizers said in a statement on Monday. "We deeply regret and apologize to all teachers for any embarrassment this may have caused."

They reiterated that the promotion was aimed at raising funds for local teachers and classrooms and explained that they had randomly selected the 10 participants from a pool of 31 applicants. The team said it is giving them all more money, totaling an additional $15,500 for area teachers.

"Together with CU Mortgage Direct we will be providing an additional $500 to those teachers that participated in the event as well as providing $500 to those additional 21 applicants that were not able to participate," the statement said.

The organizers also promised to work with South Dakota's educators organization on future events that will support teachers and "funding for our next generation."

As Chappell reported, South Dakota ranks toward the bottom of the U.S. for spending on education, both in terms of average teacher salary and the average amount it pays per student.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.