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NBA Team Responds After Being Accused of Caving to Anti-Israel Socialist Group

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The NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers are denying that the team was pressured into dropping a partnership with a company that makes military equipment due to pressure from an anti-Israel group.

Portland Democratic Socialists of America have protested the team’s “Hometown Hero” salute to veterans because it is sponsored by Leupold & Stevens, which makes rifle scopes sold to the Israeli Defense Force as well as America’s armed forces, according to the Willamette Week.

The “Hometown Hero” program gave Portland-area veterans and first responders free tickets, gifts and in-game recognition.

Last month, Trail Blazers President Chris McGowan said the partnership between the team and the company had ended.

“Leupold is no longer a partner of the organization,” McGowan said in a statement, according to the Willamette Week. “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.”

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The Portland Democratic Socialists of America, which supports the “boycott, divest and sanctions” movement, claimed victory.

“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, according to the Willamette Week.

Do you think Portland’s NBA team caved in to protests?

“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,” Smith said.

However, the controversy has brought the Trailblazers a good deal of bad publicity.

The team tried to deal with the negative attention Friday with its own statement.

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“The Trail Blazers had a partnership with Leupold & Stevens in support of the ‘Hometown Hero’ program. The program, which will continue on despite the end of the Leupold partnership, honors the brave men and women of our nation’s armed forces, first responders, and other everyday heroes who put service before self,” the statement said.

“Leupold’s sponsorship contract officially expired at the end of last season and Leupold & Stevens made the decision not to renew. Their decision was business-related and not influenced by external pressure as being misreported by certain media outlets. Leupold & Stevens was a great partner and we wish them success for the future,” the statement said.

The company also issued its own statement about the end of its sponsorship.

“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,” the company said in its statement, according to the Willamette Week.

Last season, during a Hometown Heroes segment, a member of the Portland Democratic Socialists of America  conducted a protest during one game by wearing a shirt with the words, “End This Sponsorship #NoLeupold.”

Even after the team’s announcement that the partnership was ended, the group protested a pre-season game against Israel’s Maccabi Haifa.

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

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