Jimi Van Zante, 39, has a personal MySpace page (he also has a Facebook page) which he operates under the nickname of True Grit Skinhead. His page bears many white power symbols, including boots with white laces and an image of the White Power punk rock band Skrewdriver. A picture of him with a large tattoo of a swastika on his arm is posted. His wife Hether also skates for the team, and is pictured wearing an armband inscribed with "88" with her uniform. When asked about it, Hether had a unique explanation for it; far from expressing any allegiance towards Adolf Hitler, she said it simply reflects the fact that there are eight bearings on each skate, and she has two feet.
Now that's a truly original explanation. I admire Hether's ability to think on her feet.
Jimi and Hether Van Zante, who works at Biggby Coffee, said they did not subscribe to Nazi or neo-Nazi beliefs. "I could see how there could be a concern, because some people ... could feel like there may be guilt by association," Hether Van Zante said. "But we are just here to play a sport. People (shouldn't) feel like they're doing something wrong by being in the league, being associated with the league because of a symbol (tattooed) on the league manager. We're just here to play roller derby and put on a good show." Indeed, the group's charter, published on its website at www.rivervalleyrollergirls.org, states that the group "will not discriminate, nor tolerate discrimination based upon race, creed or religion, sexual orientation, personal politics or philosophy."
In a subsequent interview with WSAW Channel 7, Hether Van Zante took issue with the Daily Herald's inflammatory headlining. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions or beliefs and we're not telling anyone what to think or believe. For them to use that headline puts a negative where there is no negative. It's definitely not fair to put roller derby in a negative light when this is a positive sport. We're here to get out aggression in a healthy way," said Hether Van Zante.
Unfortunately, the local anti-racist mill is churning up the typical hysterical half-truths and outright lies, and a number of people involved with the roller derby operation are getting cold feet. Beth Sherwood, 27, of Wausau is the captain of one of the league's two teams. She said she was not aware until recently of the Van Zantes' political views -- views she said could cause the league to collapse. She claims she and many of her fellow skaters do not condone those views. At least two members of the group already have left because of the Van Zantes' associations, although a subsequent story by WSAW Channel 7 indicates that many in the community still support them and so they will press on. But following inquiries from the Daily Herald, organizers took down from their website the list of community supporters, many of whom had not been informed that they were being listed there. One of the businesses listed as a supporter was the Wausau Daily Herald itself.
But one supporter refuses to be intimidated by anti-racist pressure and is standing firm. Jim Beem, station manager of WJMT-AM 730 in Merrill, said members of the group were interviewed on the air, and he characterized them as "bubbly and joyful." He doubted that the group had racist ties, and said he would not ban them from coming on the air in the future.
Naturally, the frigid Jewish dominatrix of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Heidi Beirich, had to get her licks in. Beirich said "88 is, like, the most well-known white supremacist slogan there is. It's used all the time by skinheads and Nazis. ... This is something that is ubiquitous in this world."
A post on Jimi Van Zante's MySpace blog validates his contention that he is not a hater. Here's a part of what he posted back in November 2008:
Unlike most Racialists one might encounter, I wasn't taught to judge or dislike individuals for their Race, Religion or Philosophy. Instead, having come from a Family with a strong sense of Euro-American Identity; I was simply encouraged to be the best possible representative of my own Family and Tribe, and in doing so. to recognize and celebrate the unique inherent characteristics and qualities which make each respective Racial group distinct and beautiful as Human beings.
I discovered, and chose to self-identify with the Skinhead movement at 13 years old; after having moved ( from my Native Arizona ) to Southern California at age 10. In short, I'd gone from a Rural Farm community elementary school of less than 500 students ( almost entirely made up of children sharing similar Ethnic backgrounds...) to a Middle-school of over 1500 students ( almost none of which shared my Ethnicity...)
I soon discovered the socially catastrophic double standard which has been allowed to perpetuate, allowing for the possibility of Pride, Dignity and Self-determination for all BUT the White Race.
I was targeted by the various extant 'minority' gangs. Principally Hispanic and Pacific Islander (Samoan) Primarily due to the fact that I wouldn't yield or allow myself to be victimized.
I absolutely and wholeheartedly believe that there are good and bad in ALL types of people, and do, in fact have Friends of ALL Kinds. I treat all with Respect and Courtesy that give same; and never start fights ( I only FINISH them! )
By nature, I am a quiet Gentleman, and Romantic idealist. I'd give the shirt right off my back for a Friend ( Regardless of Race, Creed, Color or Sexual identity )and ask only that others Follow their own Hearts in all matters ( as I do. )..
Having absolutely NOTHING to hide or be ashamed of I genuinely WELCOME open discussion; and strongly encourage others to ask questions rather than whisper complaints and aspersions.
So, if you don't know, NOW YOU KNOW!...
~ JVZ ~
Besides, if Van Zante was preaching hate, MySpace would have shut down his space long before now. MySpace is death on racist sites.