Did Portland Trail Blazers End Partnership With Company Because They Supply IDF With Rifle Scopes?


The BDS Movement are claiming a victory, following the decision of the Portland Trail Blazers to severe ties with a company that provides rifle scopes to the IDF (hat tip: Leor)

The Trail Blazers are ending a controversial partnership with Beaverton-based sniper-scopes manufacturer Leupold & Stevens.

NBA writer Sean Highkin first reported that Blazers President Chris McGowan made the announcement this afternoon at the team’s media day.

“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.”

Several groups, including the Portland Democratic Socialists of America, have protested the Blazers’ relationship with the company, which supplies rifle scopes to the U.S. military and other armed forces, including the Israeli Defense Force.

It’s the company’s work with the Israeli army that has drawn protest from the DSA, which opposes the occupation of Palestine.

McGowan said the protests were not entirely the reason for the end of the partnership.

Leupold & Stevens had sponsored a regular segment at Moda Center called Hometown Heroes, meant to honor local military veterans and first responders with free tickets, gifts and in-game recognition.

Update, 9:40 pm: Leupold & Stevens issued the following statement:

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.

During a Hometown Heroes segment at a game last year, a former Marine Corps security guard and member of the Portland chapter of the DSA unzipped his jacket, revealing a shirt reading “End This Sponsorship #NoLeupold.”

“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,” DSA co-chair Olivia 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.”

Katbi Smith added that the DSA is still planning to oppose the Blazers’ preseason game against Israel’s Maccabi Haifa on Oct. 10.

“Apartheid has no business in Portland, including in our sports and entertainment,” Katbi Smith said.

A look at Blazers President Chris McGowan’s full statement, as quoted here, would seem to indicate the decision was at least partly motivated by BDS pressure to severe the partnership.

“Leupold is no longer a partner of the organization. I thank them for many years of supporting our organization. They were a great partner when they were a sponsor, but for various reasons, some unrelated to what you’re referencing, they’ve decided to go in a different direction.”

But this contradicts their official press release.

“Their decision was business-related and not influenced by external pressure as being misreported by certain media outlets.”

I am cynical – I doubt the Chris McGowan was misquoted and I see the Blazers statement – which comes over a week and a half later – as damage control. If I am correct, this is an absolutely disgraceful decision to end an association with a company because it provides something to an ally engaged in a war against terrorists.

I will reach out to McGowan and Leupold & Stevens for their comments. Stay tuned.

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