A former U.S. Marine used his spotlight during a Trail Blazers in-game segment Tuesday night to protest a partnership the team has with a sponsor.
During every Trail Blazers home game, the team honors a military veteran during a segment it calls "Hometown Heros." On Tuesday, former Marine Corps service member Josuee Hernandez received the honor. The tribute was displayed on the Jumbotron during a break in the second quarter, highlighting Hernandez's five years of military service. Hernandez was also an embassy guard to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Rather than accepting a gift bag and welcoming the recognition, however, Hernandez decided to protest a business partnership the Trail Blazers have with Leupold & Stevens, a Beaverton-based company that makes sniper scopes for hunters and military organizations around the world. Hernandez unzipped a sweatshirt to reveal a t-shirt with the slogan, "End This Sponsorship #NoLeupold."
Hernandez, a member of the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), said he applied to be honored at the game so he could send his message.
"I first learned about the Trail Blazers’ contract with Leupold and Stevens shortly after the May 14th massacre in Gaza," Hernandez said in a statement. "That day, sharpshooters from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) murdered sixty people and injured thousands others. Like most people, I found it sickening that the IDF would have such little regard for human life, for protesters with a legitimate cause grounded against a decades-long colonialism effort done by the Israeli state. I felt powerless because I’d done so little to combat this injustice. How could such an atrocity be allowed to happen?"
"We should not feel honored by being gifted a bag of trinkets and then paraded in front of an audience," he added. "We should expect more from our team besides beating LeBron and the Lakers."
The DSA has been protesting the Trail Blazers' partnership with Leupold & Stevens' for more than three months.
"This program honors the sacrifice and heroism by active duty military, retired military, emergency first-responders and their families," the Trail Blazers said in a statement to KGW8. We are sorry that it was disrupted last night and will make every effort to ensure that the Hometown Heroes segment – a favorite of many Trail Blazers fans – continues to honor those who protect our safety and freedom.”
Leupold & Stevens also commented on the protest, telling KGW8 that the company "has for decades been a proud supporter of the active duty military, retired military and emergency first responders who protect the freedoms and safety we enjoy in our country."
"Our partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers to honor 'Hometown Heroes' is one of the ways we demonstrate our active commitment to America’s heroes," the company added. "We will continue to operate our business in the most ethical way possible, including adherence to all international and U.S. export control laws, policies and treaties which are strictly enforced by the U.S. State Department. We will not be forced to submit to the agendas of outside organizations.”
The DSA said it will continue to plan similar demonstrations until the Trail Blazers end the partnership.