After a series of protests led by several radical anti-Israel organizations, the Portland Trail Blazers recently announced the termination of their relationship with an Oregon-based rifle scope manufacturer who supplies rifle optics to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan announced that the team’s sponsorship contract with Leupold & Stevens, a deal that expired after after the 2018-2019, would not be renewed.
“Leupold is no longer a partner of the organization,” McGowan said. “I thank them for many years of supporting our organization. They were a great partner when they were a sponsor. But, for various reasons…they’ve decided to go in a different direction, so they’re no longer a partner of our team.”
In a statement provided by Willamette Week, Leupold & Stevens did not go into detail about their decision to sever ties with the Blazers, but thanked them and pledged to continue supporting veterans through other means.
Leupold & Stevens is proud to have been able to support the ‘Hometown Heroes’ program with the Portland Trail Blazers. The program honored the brave men and women of our nation’s armed forces, first responders, and other everyday heroes who put service before self. Leupold’s sponsorship contract officially expired at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season. The company has made the decision to continue its never-ending support for local heroes through other programs.
While the company neglected to go into detail, perhaps some insight into their decision can be found by looking at recent protests involving the team’s relationship with the rifle scope manufacturer.
An assortment of various activist groups, many of which are affiliated with the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, have put pressure on the Blazers to end their relationship with Leupold & Stevens.
According to Oregon Live:
Members of the Portland Democratic Socialists of America, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, Portland’s Resistance and Jewish Voice For Peace staged protests last year to pressure the Blazers to end their partnership with Leupold, which makes a variety of scopes, binoculars and rangefinders. The groups took issue with Leupold’s work with the Israeli Army. Leupold has a contract to supply sniper rifle scopes to the Israel Defense Forces’ ground arm, and reportedly had at least 800 scopes in military service by the end of 2017.
Last year, Marine corps veteran Josuee Hernandez staged a protest against Leupold when honored during the segment. While being featured on the jumbotron and television broadcast, Hernandez unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a T-Shirt which read “END THIS SPONSORSHIP,” followed by the “#NoLeupold” hashtag.
It’s quite probable that the combined pressure of the various Portland-based activist groups forced a severing of the ties between the Blazers and Leupold. However, when asked about what kind of impact the protests had on the decision, McGowan said that the protests were not the entire reason.
Regardless of the true motive, Democratic Socialists of America Co-Chair Olivia Katbi Smith sees the move as a victory for her group and their anti-Israeli cause.
“We are grateful for the hard work of the many community groups, activists, Blazers fans, and veterans who united around this important issue to stand up for Palestinian human rights,” Katbi Smith said in a statement. “We are relieved that the Blazers have done the right thing and finally ended this completely unnecessary partnership with a company that has provided sniper scopes to a brutal occupying force.”
The NBA is currently embroiled in controversy with China, after Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted a message of support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Despite a bipartisan backlash to the NBA’s apologetic initial response to China, the league is fervently trying to make amends and has no intention of breaking off their business relationship with the communist nation.
The DSA is also planning to protest the Blazers preseason game against an Israeli basketball team on Thursday night.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn