Two high-profile sponsors for the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have dropped their deals after the team ran a Memorial Day video calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an enemy of freedom.
The video, which you can see here, ran between games of a Memorial Day doubleheader and begins as a standard Memorial Day tribute to the troops and patriotism, but then veers off into a montage of “enemies of freedom” that includes New York Democrat Ocasio-Cortez, Trump protestors, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and former Cuban president Fidel Castro. The team immediately apologized for the video and followed up with a second apology:
The Fresno Grizzlies once again apologize for a video shown in our ballpark Monday evening. What was supposed to be a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country was overshadowed by a grievous error for which we are truly sorry. The criticism we have received is deserved.
The video was not produced, created or commissioned by the Fresno Grizzlies. It was carelessly taken from YouTube. There are multiple versions of this video available on the internet, the version that our employee selected contained offensive content. The airing of the video in the ballpark was the result of an unintentional oversight by an employee who did not view the video in its entirety. The employee responsible has been reprimanded by the organization.
We understand the dangers and ramifications of what was shown. We have publicly apologized to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. Regardless of your political viewpoint, we believe that all people who dedicate their lives to public service deserve respect.
We fully acknowledge that nothing we say at this point can take back the harm and pain that this has caused. We have implemented new internal protocols to ensure that this never happens again.
Still, there was some fallout from the incident. First, Sun-Maid Growers (the California raisin-farmer coop) ended its sponsorship with the team: “We are deeply disappointed by the Memorial Day tribute video the Fresno Grizzlies aired on Monday,” Sun-Maid said in an email sent to the Fresno Bee via public relations agency Havas Formula. “Sun-Maid does not support the views or sentiments expressed in the video, nor does it condone the airing of it.”
Yesterday, Heineken International, which owns Dos Equis and Tecate beer, dropped their sponsorships promoting the two Mexican beers, as announced in this tweet:
We are disheartened to learn of the views expressed in the video that aired during Monday’s Fresno Grizzlies game, as they do not reflect our core values. We have ended our relationship with the team, effective immediately, and we have informed them accordingly.
— Dos Equis (@DosEquis) May 30, 2019
However, other big sponsors say they are not cutting ties with the Grizzlies, saying they are satisfied with the apology and an explanation that the airing video was an innocent mistake and not at all a political statement. Similarly, officials with parent team Washington Nationals say they’re satisfied with the apology and explanation, per the Fresno Bee:
Jennifer Giglio, vice president of communications for the Nationals, said organization officials have spoken with the Grizzlies about the issue and were waiting to comment, once the Grizzlies completed their investigation.
“Based on their investigation, it is clear to us that this was an honest mistake by a long-time employee and was not politically motivated,” Giglio said. “They have put processes in place to ensure it does not happen again and we are comfortable with those procedures.”
The team may also be the beneficiary of some goodwill in the community. In recent years the Grizzlies have upped their community activities and upped the number of crowd-pleasing promotions, with a greater emphasis on the fan experience.