Portland Trail Blazers president and CEO Chris McGowan has announced that the National Basketball Association (NBA) team will no longer partner with a rifle scope manufacturer that has a contract with Israeli military. The move comes after a year-long campaign by local activists to pressure the Blazers to drop the sponsor.
Blazers president and CEO Chris McGowan on the team's controversial partnership with scope manufacturer Leupold and Stevens: "Leupold is no longer a part of the organization."
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) September 30, 2019
Leupold and Stevens is a Beaverton, Oregon-based company that has existed since 1907. It sponsored a segment during Blazers’ home games at the Moda Center called “Leupold Hometown Heroes,” where veterans and other individuals were honored by the crowd. The rifle scope manufacturer has a number of international contracts, including one with the Israeli military. That relationship prompted a number of local organizations, including the Portland Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Jewish Voice For Peace, to spearhead an effort to get the Blazers to end their affiliation with the company.
After a July 2018 protest in front of the Moda Center, the Blazers released a statement affirming their commitment to the sponsorship. “We acknowledge DSA’s right to free speech, and their opinion of Leupold & Stevens,” it read, “Regarding our partnership with Leupold & Stevens, we welcome their continued support of our nightly in-game salute to the bravery, sacrifice and heroism of our military, retired military and first responders.”
During a Blazers game last November, a Marine named Josuee Hernandez was honored during the segment. While he was on the arena’s jumbotron, Hernandez unzipped his jacket to reveal a t-shirt that read, “END THIS SPONSORSHIP – #NoLeupold.” The camera quickly cut away.
— Portland DSA (@PortlandDSA) November 7, 2018
Hernandez later told the Portland Mercury that he was inspired by DSA member friends to use his platform to launch and that he later joined the organization. Hernandez told the paper:
I think it’s terrible that Leupold & Stevens actively profits from war crimes, as many IDF have been spotted using their scopes in “combat” zones against Palestinian protesters. I think they know how morally awful that is, so they’re sponsoring the “hometown hero” segment at Blazers games to siphon the local goodwill of a generally anti-war and progressive state. The Blazers are a symbol of Portland and they purport to do a lot of good for the community, so why should they continue to do business with war profiteers? At minimum, they should end that partnership.
“#NoLeupold has become a reality! Thank you to all the people and organizations that helped create the pressure necessary to end this sponsorship!, “tweeted the Portland DSA account after Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin broke the news on Twitter, “Special shout out to vet and DSA member [Josuee Hernandez] for disrupting the Leupold ceremony at the game #FreePalestine”
#NoLeupold has become a reality! Thank you to all the people and organizations that helped create the pressure necessary to end this sponsorship! Special shout out to vet and DSA member @joesway4 for disrupting the Leupold ceremony at the game #FreePalestine https://t.co/8b38cagrGU
— Portland DSA (@PortlandDSA) September 30, 2019
“IT’S DONE,” tweeted Hernandez in response to the news, “I’m especially proud of the work my comrades in @PortlandDSA put in last year and this year, as well as all the other various organizations involved in making this possible. FROM PALESTINE TO MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS HAVE GOT TO GO.”
IT'S DONE. I'm especially proud of the work my comrades in @PortlandDSA put in last year and this year, as well as all the other various organizations involved in making this possible.
FROM PALESTINE TO MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS HAVE GOT TO GO https://t.co/iyYJrJ4xsf
— JosHer (@joesway4) September 30, 2019